AYP report raises worries

Published 1:52 pm Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Suffolk Public Schools division and 12 of its 21 schools failed to meet benchmarks established by the No Child Left Behind Act, the Virginia Department of Education revealed Thursday.

Elephant’s Fork, Hillpoint, Mack Benn Jr., Mount Zion and Oakland elementary schools; Forest Glen, John F. Kennedy, John Yeates and King’s Fork middle schools; and King’s Fork, Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools did not make AYP. The same number of schools missed the standard as last year, but some of the schools on the list changed.

“We are disappointed with the results,” Deputy Superintendent Deran Whitney said Thursday. “With the schools that didn’t meet AYP, we want to see what we can do differently.”

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires states to set objectives of proficiency in reading and mathematics, participation in testing, and attendance and graduation rates. Schools and school divisions that meet the standards are considered to have made Adequate Yearly Progress. Among the schools that do not, the schools that receive Title I federal funding face sanctions.

This year, Elephant’s Fork, Mack Benn Jr. and Mount Zion elementary schools will see sanctions that include allowing parents to switch their children to a school that made AYP. Those schools receive Title I funding and have missed AYP the last two years in a row.

Whitney said parents should know by the end of next week which alternate schools have been selected. Elephant’s Fork also will be required to provide tutoring and other supplemental services.

During Thursday’s regular School Board meeting, Superintendent Milton Liverman encouraged board members to have input on upcoming changes to the federal law.

“There need to be some changes,” Liverman said. “The current model that the federal government requires will have almost every school in the United States of America not making AYP [by 2014].”

Liverman referred to the increasing standards in the No Child Left Behind Act, which mean that in 2014, any school in which 100 percent of the students did not pass every Standards of Learning test on the first try will miss AYP.

Whitney said schools that did not meet the standards will be digging deeper to see which particular students are struggling, and paying closer attention to their academic performance so intervention can be made earlier.

For a school to meet the standards this year, at least 81 percent of students overall and in each subgroup had to demonstrate proficiency in reading, and at least 79 percent of students overall and in each subgroup had to demonstrate proficiency in math. The subgroups assessed for AYP purposes are: white, black, Hispanic, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and students with limited English proficiency. Attendance rates in elementary and middle schools also were measured to determine compliance with established benchmarks.

The scores are based on the SOL tests administered in the 2008-2009 school year. To account for expected fluctuations in year-to-year achievement, schools are allowed to average the last three years’ scores in a particular grade and subject area to get a passing number. Adjustments also were made for students with limited English proficiency and students who had recently transferred into a Virginia public school.

Hillpoint Elementary, the division’s newest school, did not meet AYP standards in its first year teaching students.

Whitney applauded Kilby Shores and Nansemond Parkway elementary schools for meeting standards after not making it last year.

“That’s always good news,” he said. “We’re very pleased to see that, which shows that it certainly can be done.”

Also encouraging, Whitney said, is that the achievement gap between black and white students narrowed in a majority of the schools, and subgroups in most of the schools improved their scores over last year.

Six schools in Suffolk — Booker T. Washington, Driver, Florence Bowser, Northern Shores, Robertson and Southwestern elementary schools — have made AYP the last three years in a row.