Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

September 14, 2012

Nearly half of Mercer schools failed to meet AYP progress reports

PRINCETON — Nearly half of Mercer County schools did not make annual yearly progress (AYP) during the 2010-2011 school year according to results from the statewide WESTEST.

According to the West Virginia Education Information System (WVEIS), Approximately 47.8 percent or 11 of the county’s 23 tested schools did not make AYP.

Schools not making AYP in Mercer County included Bluefield Intermediate, Bluefield Middle, Bluefield Elementary, Glenwood School, Montcalm Elementary, Montcalm High School, PikeView High School, Princeton Middle School, Princeton Senior High School, Spanishburg School, and Straley Elementary.

Of these schools, Bluefield Intermediate, Bluefield Middle, Glenwood School, Princeton Middle, and Spanishburg Elementary have not made AYP for two or more years in a row. The Mercer County Technical Education Center and PikeView Middle School do not yet apply for AYP testing.

Mercer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Akers said the score students have to make in order for schools to make AYP is determined on the state level.

“The whole federal legislation put into play a system, where by 2014 every student — meaning 100 percent of students — had to be proficient no matter if they were disabled, from low socioeconomic backgrounds and other categories,” Akers said.

“There is a state determined trajectory of what percentage of students leading up to this date in 2014 would have to be proficient in order for schools to make annual yearly progress. The amount of students who have to pass goes up each year. That is how AYP is determined. It is determined based on the number of students you have that need proficiency against the trajectory the state has established. That trajectory is on a steep incline upward at this point. It has gone up very drastically in the past few years.”

Akers said the current system is “not a fair system” for comparing two schools.

“You are measured not only for the number of the students who make AYP but on your subgroups,” she said.

“As many as 50 students constitute a subgroup. Those students have to make that same number of students proficient. There is some unfairness when you try to compare schools because some schools do not have these subgroups while others have several subgroups. Some schools may have to meet criteria in six or seven different subgroups, and if one subgroup does not make proficiency the entire school does not make AYP. Inherently, it is not a fair system to compare schools because of the different demographics within the different schools.”

Rather than overall schools AYP, Akers said parents should see if their child is showing individual improvement from year to year.

“We used to think 90 percent was a good score on a grade card,” Akers said. “However, with this measurement 90 percent of students can make it and 10 percent don’t, so that school doesn’t make AYP. What we encourage parents to do is look at their child’s individual progress to see if the child has progressed from one year to the next, if they are meeting mastery. We also ask them to look at what skills they are not proficient in and what work can be done on those specific skills. You look across the state and see larger schools with lots of different subgroups have a harder time making AYP than some of the smaller.”

The West Virginia Department of Education applied for a waiver on Sept. 5 allowing the state more flexibility on the federal No Child Left Behind requirements. The U.S. Department of Education has received 30 applications from states for these waivers since they were first offered in December 2011.

Akers said the proposed system for if the waiver is granted would be “much fairer” and “much more meaningful” to students.

“What the state is asking for is to do away with the present system because they believe it is unfair,” Akers said. “This would use a growth model by looking at where a student is and how much progress they made. It determines proficiency through comparing students with other students in a similar achievement level, so you are actually comparing a like group of students. The next year, they will compare that same group of students to see if those children made expected growth or less than expected growth. In that scenario, AYP would be determined if students were making progress, which to me seems a much fairer way and a much more meaningful way.”

Statewide only 48 percent of schools tested made AYP for the 2010-2011 school year, according to WVEIS. The West Virginia Educational Standards Test or (WESTEST) scores show whether or not schools are accountable under the No Child Left Behind Act. Students from third grade through eleventh grade are required to take the yearly examination.

Each year, the test score each student must achieve in different sections of the test is raised due to federal requirements, according to WVEIS. In 2010, schools were also required to measure graduation rates by the No Child Left Behind Act.

The No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001.�

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