Brewton classes back in session

Published 1:59 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Parents of school-aged children in Brewton City and Escambia County Schools may find themselves overwhelmed with information this week.
As part of the accountability standards set forth in the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the school systems are required to notify parents within the first week of school if their children are enrolled in classes taught by teachers who are not certified by the state as "highly qualified."
And the state is about to release accountability reports measuring the "adequate yearly progress," or AYP, of each public school in the state. The reports, which were made available to school administrators Monday, are to be released to the public tomorrow, Thursday, Aug. 11. Some of the information is already available on the state Department of Education web site.
Highly qualified
The highly qualified certification is part of the No Child Left Behind Act. To be certified as "highly qualified," teachers must provide documentation of specific coursework, degrees or work experience to the state Department of Education.
Brewton Superintendent Lynn Smith said the city system sent about 10 letters to parents this week, while Escambia County Superintendent Buck Powell said the county mailed five letters.
Teachers who were working in the school system when the No Child Left Behind was passed have until the end of May, 2006, to complete specific courses required for "highly certified" designation or to take a standardized test.
Some of those not yet certified as highly qualified are first-time teachers, he said.
Powell said that five of the county's 330 teachers don't have the highly-qualified certification.
One of those awaits paperwork going through Montgomery, he said, while others are doing the coursework they need. Two need to complete only one course to complete the process.
AYP and School Improvement
The AYP reports include annual measurable objectives in reading and math, and other academic indicators such as attendance, participation in standardized tests, and dropout rates. The objectives are measured for the school as a whole and for specific groups of students.
For instance, when measuring the entire population of school, the student body might have high enough scores in reading for the school to meet is overall objective. However, if a specific population - like those on free or reduced lunches - doesn't score in the "clear" percentage, the entire school goes into school improvement.
Such is the case with Brewton Middle School, Smith said.
While being in the first year of school improvement places no restrictions on a school, he said, "we'll still sit down and talk about it and I think some good things will come from it."
In the county school system, both W.S. Neal Elementary School and W.S. Neal Middle School are in similar situations, being placed in the first year of improvement.
Powell said the ratings came because a particular sub-group of the population didn't achieve the school's goals.
Escambia County Middle School in Atmore was in school improvement status for the sixth year.
There are 313 of the state's 1,366 public schools on the improvement list to be released tomorrow.

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