All Polk County schools but one meet federal yearly progress goals

Published 4:33 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The school missed on the subgroup for economically disadvantaged students because the federal government rejected a test proposed by North Carolina for a small category of students that fell within that subgroup. Since the state lacked time to create a new test before the end of the school year, the students went untested. As a result, the high school fell short of the required 95 percent participation rate in that group.

All other subgroups in all other Polk schools met AYP targets. Additionally, Polk County Schools met all targets as a district, including the target for economically disadvantaged students. Polk was able to meet that target because it had a larger pool of students in that subgroup as a district than it did at the high school.

Last year Polk County Schools failed as a district to reach all targets, missing on the Limited English Proficient subgroup of students.

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Polk County Schools accountability director Dave Scherping says he expects Polk County is one of very few districts in the state to attain all AYP goals, just as it was when it did the same two years ago. In 2007, Polk County was one of only three districts in the state to meet all targets. The state has a total of 115 school districts.

Polk County is able to achieve that status because of its comparatively high academic performance, but also in part because it has fewer subgroups than districts with larger, more ethnically diverse populations.

The unique feature of AYP is that it looks at the school population divided into 10 subgroups:&bsp; School as a Whole, White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, Multiracial, Economically Disadvantaged Students, Limited English Proficient Students, Students With Disabilities.&bsp; To have met AYP, a school must have the students in every subgroup meet the AYP standard.&bsp; A subgroup must have at least 40 students to be counted.

The AYP standard, or the percentage of students that must test proficient, is set by the state for each year.&bsp; This past year the state required 77.2 percent of students in grades 3-8 to test proficient in math in order to meet the subgroup target. The state required 43.2 percent of students in grades 3-8 to test proficient in reading. The target is lower for reading because the state adjusted the target after implementing a new reading test last year. The targets this past year in grades 10 were 38.5 percent in reading/language arts and 68.4 percent in math.

The targets will rise in future years toward the goal of 100 percent proficiency by the 2013-14 school year.&bsp; AYP is a component of the Federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation approved in 2002. The new federal administration is referring to the program by its original name, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Scherping says the program recently was reauthorized, but likely will be reformed by the new administration before the 2013-14 school year.&bsp; Many educators have said the 100 percent proficiency target is not realistic, particularly since it includes students with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities.

Scherping says another issue with the program is that it compares this year&squo;s students to last year&squo;s students rather than tracking one group of students as is done in North Carolina&squo;s ABCs accountability program.

However, Scherping says AYP has had a positive impact at Polk County Schools, forcing educators to making sure they are focusing on every group of students.

&dquo;We&squo;ve always been very interested in making sure our students perform well. Our teachers work hard, our principals work hard and our students work hard toward that goal,&dquo; says Scherping. &dquo;AYP makes sure we&squo;re not looking at the school or a grade level as a whole, but we&squo;re looking at all subgroups to make sure no students are hidden.&dquo;

AYP also requires that schools and districts meet attendance and graduation targets. Polk schools met the attendance target of 90 percent or greater for grades 3-8 and also met the 4-year graduation target of 80 percent for grade 10.

Those targets were met for each subgroup and as a district.