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Schools bracing to make stricter AYP goals

POSTED: August 4, 2011 7:14 p.m.

Although Effingham County schools’ 2011 test scores earned overall gains and high rankings compared to the state, Adequate Yearly Progress projections show no schools in the system meeting AYP by 2013.

Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff praised the schools for improvements over last several years. But, in the wake of initial reports indicating the system does not meet AYP, he and his team estimated the probability of the system meeting the 2014 goal of 100 percent.

“I can tell you one thing,” said school board Chairman Lamar Allen of the charts highlighting groups in danger of missing AYP in red, “when the end comes, we won’t be by ourselves in that red, I’ll bet you that.”

Initial reports released recently indicated that South Effingham Middle, South Effingham High and Effingham County High Schools as not meeting AYP for 2011.

While both high schools are expected to meet the graduation rate, a second indicator for AYP, at 85 percent after summer retests and adjustments are calculated, accountability in subgroups seems to be where the trouble hails.

But next year’s reforms, enacted as Georgia was a recipient of federal Race to the Top dollars, will change expectations of schools even more, as NCLB objectives jump even higher.

“I’ll say this,” said Arnsdorff. “Georgia gave us lots of time early on and gave us several years where the goals wouldn’t change, but now that we’ve gotten to the end of the line, the big chunks are coming.”

The federal No Child Left Behind Act (now the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) requires states to hold schools accountable for all students and in all subgroups meeting or exceeding standards by 2014. The subgroups, 40 or more students, relevant in Effingham are: black, economically disadvantaged (based of free or reduced lunch status) and students with disabilities (SWD).

The good

Effingham’s elementary and middle schools performed exceptionally well on Criterion Referenced Competency Test.

“The rankings are fairly high,” Arnsdorff said. “I think that’s something we can be proud of. This is not something that we hold up as our goal but certainly, it’s gratifying to see, based on the work of our teachers in the classrooms, how our students perform against other school systems in the state, many places have lots more resources than we do.”

Effingham ranked in the top 50 out of 180 school districts in all but one of 30 content areas tested in five subjects across grades three through eight. The county was in the top 25 systems in the state in 18 of those content areas.

“I think that speaks well for the work that goes on here every day,” said Arnsdorff.

Effingham also a higher percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in every content area, compared to the state average.

“If you realize how we’ve been ramping things up,” said Arnsdorff. “the whole environment, less school days, less money, to have increases across the board in practically every content areas still, is pretty amazing.”

ECHS had a graduation rate of 84.8 percent and SEHS at 83.5 percent, and both schools are expected to reach the 85 percent goals for next year.

The bad

For the second year, parent of students at ECHS received letters indicating that the school had Needs Improvement Status and were offered an opportunity to transfer schools, as required by law.

While ECHS’ graduation rate jumped from 79.8 percent to 84.8 percent this year, all students and the schools’ subgroups, black, SWD and economically disadvantaged, are not meeting academic goals.

And the AYP absolute bar for next year is a 90 percent graduation rate for high schools.

SEMS did not meet in the SWD subgroup.

But next year, elementary and middle schools will be responsible for science as well as reading/ELA and math. Georgia is replacing attendance with science CRCT scores as a second AYP indicator. And every test will have a higher performance bar next year than it had this year.

“I think if you ask the schools, their major focus during the day has been reading and math - now they’re going to be responsible for science with this,” said Arnsdorff.

Georgia will not be using the Georgia High School Graduation Test as its academic indicator next year. The State End of Course Test will determine whether students pass and whether schools meet AYP. Which tests will be weighed is yet to be known, whether it’s ninth or 11th grade literature or Math I or II.

The ugly

Most school systems expected lawmakers to reauthorize NCLB by now. As of now, schools are still expected to meet the 2014 deadline or be deemed as needing improvement and lose certain funding.

Projections show that all Effingham elementary and middle schools will be in jeopardy of not making AYP in 2013, and high schools will be in danger of not making AYP in 2012.

“We knew this day was coming,” said Arnsdorff. “I guess I can say, and I think (Superintendent Randy Shearouse) will concur, we made it a lot more probably than we ever dreamed we would when we started this way back when.”

“We will be the last man standing, we hope,” said Shearouse. “We’ll continue to work on this and try to reach what goals we have set for us. But it will be tough.”

Said Arnsdorff: “As you’ve heard me say before, we will continue to focus on good instruction, we will continue to empower our teachers to have the proper training, we’ll try to give them the proper tools.

“We’ll continue to lobby those who are policy makers to make the right decision so that we don’t find ourselves in this same predicament as a new law is reauthorized. It’s going to have to be.”

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