Schools fail to meet requirements for student learning
by Hawkins Teague
Aug 30, 2006 | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Trigg County Schools have failed to meet the adequate yearly progress (AYP) requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind program for the fourth year in a row, relegating the district to Tier Three status.

Consequences of Tier Three status are to “continue school choice, revise school plan, continue supplemental services and implement corrective action.” Superintendent Tim McGinnis said, though, that school choice isn’t actually an option because the county schools are the only choices in the district.

NCLB requires that all school districts in the country meet standards of proficiency by 2014, and sets a standard of improvement to be met each year. For the 2005-2006 school year, 53.14 percent of students were supposed to reach proficiency in reading and 29.54 percent needed to reach proficiency in math. The standard is the same for the new school year. The federal government leaves the standard of testing up to the states, and Kentucky uses the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS).

NCLB also requires that the proficiency standard be met by all “subpopulations” in a district, as well as the entire student population. A subpopulation must include at least 10 students to be counted. Trigg County includes four subpopulations: White (Non-Hispanic), African-American, free/reduced lunch, and students with disabilities.

With reading and math scores, that makes 16 target goals for the schools to meet, but they met only 12. While the student body as a whole improved both their reading and math scores, the African-American and free/reduced lunch subpopulations failed to meet standards in math, while students with disabilities failed to meet standards in both reading and math. Also, even though the annual measurable objective set by NCLB was met, reading scores among the general student population fell from 60.56 percent proficiency to 57.16.

McGinnis said he was “very disappointed” in the results and also shocked because he thought some steps taken last year would improve the scores, such as the hiring of a math coach and continued assessment tests like Thinklink, which is supposed to predict how students will do on other tests.

Unfortunately, math scores among free/reduced lunch students and students with disabilities actually went down from the previous year. The percentage of proficient free/reduced lunch students declined from 23.96 to 21.32, while students with disabilities changed from 10.36 to 10.16 percent.

Mary Ann Lander, superintendent of curriculum, said that students with disabilities’ scores were a very big problem, having missed the annual measurable objective by 22.63 percentage points in reading and 19.46 in math. Children who are categorized as students with disabilities range from the functionally mentally disabled (FMD) to children in speech therapy to those with learning disabilities such as ADHD. FMD students generally take versions of the test in which they incorporate “life skills,” Lander said. There are other students with reading disabilities who have the test read to them and answer the questions orally, she said.

Lander said it was unfortunate that the NCLB standards are “all or nothing,” meaning schools are determined to be failing even though there may have been some improvement. She also said it was impossible to know exactly how Kentucky schools compared to other schools around the country since the means of testing are determined by the state. She said that since the federal government is grading schools based on their standards, it might be a good idea to implement one test around the country to be fairer.

So what can be done to turn the district around? McGinnis said he thought continuous assessment exams were a good first step and that the schools were on the right track in using them. He said all students would be tested in before the end of the month and tested again in December. That way, teachers will be able to judge how much more prepared students are to take CATS in the spring. If they find that they are not, they can change their strategies. He warned, though, that this would not happen overnight.

“I hate to say it, but time will tell,” he said.

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