AYP scores reveal improvements

Published 2:52 am Wednesday, August 6, 2008

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
All but one of the schools in Brewton and East Brewton met state academic standards, according to accountability results released this week by the Alabama State Department of Education.
W.S. Neal Middle School missed only one of its academic goals, and W.S. Neal High School, which has just missed making adequate yearly progress for the past two years, made AYP this year.
For the past two years, Neal's graduation rate has been below state standards, keeping the school from meeting AYP. This year, the school achieved that goal.
W.S. Neal Middle School missed just one goal, its reading proficiency index for special education students. W.S. Neal Elementary School met all of its proficiency goals for reading and math.
Escambia County did improve its dropout rates by sharing a dropout intervention specialist with Brewton City Schools, thanks to a grant, Hines said.
School officials have already taken steps to improve Neal Middle School's special education reading scores, adding a teacher unit to the school to work with those students.
For a school to meet state standards, a certain percentage of students in each grade must pass standardized reading and mathematics tests – the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test for elementary and middle schools and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam for high schools. Also, at least 95 percent of students must take the tests.
If students in any demographic subgroup - broken down by race, economic background, special-education status and other factors - do not pass the tests, the entire school does not meet standards in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
A school with a more diverse student population, therefore, would have more goals to reach. If the number of students in a particular subgroup falls below 40, the school is not evaluated for that subgroup's academic proficiency.
Brewton Elementary and Middle schools and T.R. Miller High School all met AYP this year. Brewton City Schools Superintendent Lynn Smith said he was pleased with the school system's results, but he wonders how long any school system can continue to improve as state standards become tougher.
By 2014, all students must pass the tests, which is the goal of the federal No Child Left Behind Act on which Alabama's academic standards are based. Right now, only a certain percentage for each grade level have to show proficiency. For example, in 2007-2008, 68 percent of third-graders had to show proficiency in math. That number increases to 74 percent next year.
Smith said he fears the state will have to lower its standards as 2014 approaches, in order to have schools continue to make AYP.
Alabama already lowered its graduation requirements, allowing students to pass just three parts of the graduation exam this past year to receive a diploma.
But Smith pointed out that while some schools may not achieve the desired level of graduation rate, schools across the board are still seeing more graduates than ever before.
And Smith said the test scores on which accountability results are based have great value for teaches and administrators, who can see which grade levels and which students need the most assistance.