Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

September 29, 2011

No district left behind

Holliday requests waiver after lagging results

By LISA SIMPSON STRANGE
Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal legislation was passed in 2001 and became law in early 2002.

The act was designed “to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility and choice, so that no child is left behind.” But NCLB has proven to be anything but flexible, according to Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday and many school district superintendents across the state.

With Kentucky only meeting 52 percent or 13 of 25 target goals for NCLB and not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) in reading or math benchmarks in the latest testing assessments, Holliday has requested a waiver from the U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for more flexibility in NCLB accountability for the state.

“While NCLB had the right vision, it’s time to revisit the measurement system required by the law,” Holliday commented in a Kentucky Department of Education news release on Friday.

One local school superintendent, Bo Matthews of Barren County, is also concerned, especially since Holliday is questioning whether the NCLB system is fair, valid or reliable.

“When my boss, the commissioner of education, makes a statement to that degree, you know it brings into some question what my response as superintendent ... needs to be when addressing a total, school-wide improvement plan,” Matthews said.

None of the five school districts in the coverage area met all of their NCLB target goals and only Metcalfe County made AYP in math as a district. High school performance for NCLB and AYP caused the main deficits for all districts except Caverna where CHS met 100 percent of target goals and achieved AYP in reading and math.

BARREN COUNTY

In NCLB results, the Barren County district met 6 of 13 target goals or 46.2 percent and did not achieve AYP in reading or math.

All schools in the district except Park City Elementary (8 of 10) and Barren County High School (4 of 10) achieved 100 percent of their target goals.

With all but one of the elementaries meeting goals for the last two years, Matthews wants to acknowledge points of celebration at those schools, but also wants to make sure that plans are in place to address possible negative outcomes down the road – to “look for the positives, but address the negatives.”

“We need to develop action plans to address a future trend that might be making itself become visible,” he said.

Results at the middle school are also to be touted, Matthews said. BCMS met 10 of 10 targets and AYP overall.

“Certainly, this is a year we have reason to celebrate,” he said.

But numbers at the high school pulled the down the district’s performance.

“It’s definitely a cause for concern, but you have to take it for what it really means,” Matthews said. “We have this totally conflicting data. Are we really talking about the same high school?”

Matthews pointed to BCHS’s successes with the Early College Magnet program, nationally recognized AP and dual credits initiatives, and ACT and College/Career Readiness scores.

“I understand accountability. I just don’t want to undermine the success of individual students,” he said. “... Absolutely, we need to respond to the numbers, but a one-year number or target that is not hit in my view is not a cause for alarm. It’s a cause for evaluation. ... A school can improve. The issue is that the target moves as well. I feel like the case has already been made that the high school and the district, regardless of the assessment data, is still moving in a positive direction. ... The struggle is that they continually change the system we use to monitor students.”

CAVERNA

The Caverna school district overall met 4 of 10 target goals or 40 percent in NCLB results. The district did not meet AYP in reading or math.

Caverna Elementary School met 9 of 10 targets for 90 percent and made AYP in math, but not reading. Caverna Middle School only met 4 of 10 targets for 40 percent and did not make AYP in reading or math. Caverna High School met all 9 of 9 targets for 100 percent and met AYP in both reading and math.

In comparison, last year CES met 4 of 10 targets, CMS met 10 of 10 targets and CHS met 7 of 10 targets. Both the elementary and high school improved this year, but the middle school showed a marked decline.

Superintendent Sam Dick was encouraged by the results at the elementary and high schools. He thought the middle school numbers could be misleading.

“As noted, CES made 90 percent of the goals. This is a great improvement over the 40 percent the year before. We are very pleased with the improvements that the elementary school made in reading, but we are not satisfied with the overall results,” he said. “CES was considered to be in safe harbor in our overall reading and free and reduced reading because of the improvements that we made. We did not make goal, but reached safe harbor by reducing the number of students who performed below proficient by 10 percent. We are extremely pleased with our math results (at CES). We increased our number of proficient students by 20 percent over the previous year. We met the benchmark in all subpopulations in math.”

The number of apprentice versus proficient/distinguished students affected results at the middle school, according to Dick.

“While the middle school met only 40 percent of the goals, the scores are misleading,” he said. “As we examined our individual student scores, we found that we had 71 percent of our students performing at apprentice high and higher. In reading, the percentage of students performing at apprentice high or higher was 74 percent. The reason we fell dealt with the number of students around the apprentice high and proficient level. Compared to last year, we had a higher number of apprentice high than proficient/distinguished students. This kept us from making goal.”

Results at the high school improved significantly to last year.

“We are extremely pleased with the performance at the high school. They met 10 out of 10 goals. This is phenomenal considering that high schools nationwide traditionally have had a difficult time meeting AYP,” Dick said. “As we noted in a previous article on the CCR, there is a different set of skills needed than that for the NCLB. This can be seen in the discrepancy between our CCR scores (which were low) and our NCLB scores where we met goal.”

After struggling for several years, CHS achieved AYP this year along with other increases.

“The data released this week shows that Caverna High School is making progress in every area that was assessed last year. This is the first time in five years that the high school has met AYP. Scores for last year’s junior class showed marked advances. Math scores tripled and social studies saw an 11-point increase in the percentage of students scoring proficient and distinguished. Reading increased a total of nine points increasing our scores to 66.67, ranking us among the top schools in our area,” Dick said.

GLASGOW

The Glasgow District met 9 of 11 NCLB target goals or 81.8 percent, but did not make AYP in reading or math.

Both South Green Elementary and Glasgow Middle School met 10 of 10 targets for 100 percent and achieved AYP in reading and math.

Highland Elementary met 9 of 10 targets or 90 percent and AYP in math, but not reading.

Glasgow High School only met 7 of 12 targets or 58.3 percent and did not make AYP in reading or math.

“Any high school, as our accountability model currently exists, is the most challenging of any of the schools to move forward and maintain the benchmarks,” said Sean Howard, Glasgow superintendent.

Howard has set guidelines for teachers and administrators to follow to help address the deficiencies.

“We must continue to provide the necessary guidance and support to our high school in order for the needed improvement to occur. We need to continue to provide professional development to our teachers in the areas of the most effective teaching and planning practices. We must have daily conversations which focus on the delivery of the content, the significance of well-designed assessments, and knowing how every student is performing on a daily basis. We must continue to build rapport with each student and continue to reach out to their needs and push them to excel,” he said.

METCALFE COUNTY

The Metcalfe County District met 9 of 11 target goals or 81.8 percent in NCLB and made AYP in math, but not reading.

Two of three elementaries, North Metcalfe Elementary and Summer Shade Elementary, plus Metcalfe County Middle School met 100 percent of their targets as well as making AYP in reading and math.

Edmonton Elementary and Metcalfe County High schools both only met 7 of 10 targets, and met AYP in math, but not reading.

When Superintendent Patricia Hurt was asked about why EES and MCHS decreased in the number of targets met this year, she explained the NCLB goals are moving targets, which makes them more difficult to achieve.

“Each year the NCLB goal rises, and we have to perform at the same high level as we did the previous year and then some. There is simply a reading issue at both schools and the gap continues to get wider in part due to the fact that the NCLB goal moves,” she said.

Hurt has a three-point plan for addressing the deficits at the two schools concerning NCLB and AYP.

• “We need to spend time looking inside the KCCT results at the individual student level and map intervention strategies that have been identified for each child to be successful.

• “We have PD (personal development) day devoted to data disaggregation at each school site and by the end of the day, each school will identify goals that will be incorporated into their CSIP (comprehensive school improvement plan) to address each academic issue found.

• “We have placed additional support staff at the district and school levels to work with teachers and administrators in curriculum and instruction roles,” she said.

What are the other schools in the district doing right to achieve NCLB and AYP benchmarks?

They have devised a system of interventions to best meet the needs of all students whom they serve, according to Hurt.

“Leadership holds teachers and students to a high standard of performance and best practice. The focus is on teaching and learning and are not distracted by things that matter least. A successful performance of any kind requires intentional focus. They utilize all available resources to illicit a high level of achievement and by doing so, they maximize learning opportunities for all,” she said.

MONROE COUNTY

Monroe County District met 10 of 13 target goals or 76.9 percent for NCLB, but did not achieve AYP for reading or math.

All three elementaries, Gamaliel, Joe Harrison Carter and Tompkinsville, met 100 percent of their targets and AYP in both reading and math.

Monroe County Middle and Monroe County High each only met 6 of 10 targets and did not make AYP in reading or math.

The middle and high schools continue to underperform on NCLB/AYP when compared to the other schools in the district.

Superintendent Lewis Carter said the elementaries “continue to show consistent, continual climbs towards individual student success.”

“That commitment to student growth is crucial in their successes, which have placed them in the top 10 percent of the state again this year for the fifth year in the row. The individualized education plans and RTI (Response to Intervention) have been in place for several years and we see the benefits already with increased student achievement and mastery levels. Individually, the schools score high on the reading and math - but the collaborative efforts through Professional Learning Communities in place for teachers through the whole county will continue to improve scores throughout the schools and district,” he said.

Lewis pointed out that the test results do not follow the same students’ performance.

“It is imperative that everyone realizes the individual data years do not compare the same group of students. Being able to see growth as the new Kentucky accountability system proposes will allow the progress of individual students to be measured. This will begin to let the public see the schools’ actual numbers of ‘apples to apples,’” he said.

Part of the improvement plan is to add an instructional coach to help address deficits in performance.

“As we look toward the remainder of this year, we will be using Title I Federal funds set aside for school improvement to employ an instructional coach at the Monroe County High School (pending board approval Thursday morning of the position). The charge of this person will be to evaluate, assist and monitor school improvement issues and strategies,” Lewis said.