The grades are in but the news is mixed for Clarke County Public Schools.
On the positive side, Boyce Elementary continued to achieve “adequate yearly progress,” a Virginia school assessment standard required by the federal “No Child Left Behind” law, while D. G. Cooley Elementary also achieved AYP after missing the mark last year. Additionally, all four Clarke County schools have been accredited the Commonwealth of Virginia based on Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores from the previous school year.
Less positive results were turned in by Clarke County High School and Johnson Williams Middle School where weaknesses in mathematics kept both schools from achieving AYP.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael F. Murphy offered special congratulations to D.G. Cooley Elementary School staff for their efforts to increase student performance. Murphy said that significant improvement was made as Cooley moved from not making AYP last year to making AYP this year.
Although half of Clarke County schools failed to achieve AYP, that rate is significantly better than Virginia’s overall school assessment; The Virginia Department of Education reported on Thursday that only 13 of the 45 public schools in the Northern Shenandoah Valley made “adequate yearly progress” this year and, statewide, only 38 percent of Virginia schools achieved AYP.
Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said that Virginia’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) ratings for demonstrate that the 10-year-old school evaluation system established under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) “has outlived its usefulness and should be overhauled.”
In a Virginia Department of Education statement on Thursday, VDOE said that because of the intricacies of the AYP calculation and higher benchmarks, only 697, or 38 percent of the Commonwealth’s 1,839 schools, made AYP based on achievement on 2010-2011 state tests. Sixty-one percent of schools made AYP during the previous ratings cycle. Only four of Virginia’s 132 school divisions made AYP based on 2010-2011 achievement, compared with 12 during the previous cycle.
Statewide, 547, or 47 percent, of 1,175 elementary schools made AYP, 29, or 9 percent, of 308 middle schools made AYP, 109, or 35 percent, of 308 high schools made AYP and 12, or 25 percent, of 48 combined schools (schools with multiple grade spans) made AYP.
Clarke County Public School Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy has previously characterized the AYP assessment program as an “impending train wreck” and has said that the evaluation system needs to be completely overhauled.
The Virginia Education Department’s news release also says that Virginia Superintendent Wright will ask U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to grant the state a waiver from the AYP requirements. Duncan announced Monday that he will let states know next month how they can seek waivers, according to the release.
“Accountability is not advanced by arbitrary rules and benchmarks that misidentify schools,” Wright said. “During the coming weeks, I will begin a discussion with the state board on creating a new model for measuring yearly progress that maintains high expectations for student achievement, recognizes growth – overall and by subgroup – and accurately identifies schools most in need of improvement.”
The AYP standings are based on the results of the Standards of Learning tests taken by students during the previous school year. There are minimally 29 benchmarks and all benchmarks must be met for a school to make AYP.
For each Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark, a school or school division is rated against an annual measurable objective (AMO). For the 2010-11 school year the AMO for Reading was 86%, while the AMO for Math was 85%. Under the No Child Left Behind law, these AMOs will continue to increase each year until ultimately reaching 100% in 2013-14.
Murphy said that all four Clarke County schools will revise their school improvement plans to provide additional focus on those areas in need of improvement (i.e., a subject area or one or more of the 29 benchmarks).