Polk Schools meet federal test targets

Published 4:58 pm Friday, August 3, 2012

All seven Polk County schools met proficiency-testing standards this past school year, according to results released Aug. 2 from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
Polk County Schools Superintendent Bill Miller said he was happy with the schools’ achievements.
“I do hope it helps people see that our schools continue to perform incredibly well,” Miller said.
Schools across the state were evaluated based on three key areas, including the percentage of students proficient in grade-level skills and knowledge; the amount of growth the school’s students achieved in the year and whether the school met federal Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs).
Of schools statewide, just 46.2 percent, or 1,165 schools, met the AMOs, which replaced Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP goals previously required by the U.S. Department of Education.
Miller said all seven schools – Tryon Elementary, Polk Central, Polk County Early College, Polk County High School, Polk County Middle School, Saluda Elementary and Sunny View Elementary – placed with at least an 86-percent student grade-level proficiency.
“It’s amazing how many schools in this state are in the 50 and 60 percent status,” Miller said. “That’s what I hope people get – that their children are going to good schools.”
Miller said one unexpected change coming out of this year’s results is that only one school in the system reached the “high” growth status.
Saluda Elementary achieved this designation with 93.8 percent of its students performing at grade level or higher.
Principal Ronette Dill said the scores are a testament to the dedication of the Saluda School family.
“I’m really thrilled for our students and our teachers because they all worked really hard all year long,” Dill said. “I think our continued focus on individual students and their strengths and weaknesses is what made all the difference.”
Dill said she believes the school’s participation in the A-plus program also assisted in its progress, because it meant that PE teachers and music teachers helped reinforce common core curriculum that students’ regular classroom teachers were presenting every day.
“It’s just such a special place for kids to learn, it truly is,” Dill said. “Teachers really take an interest in these kids; the kids can feel that from the teachers.”
Tryon Elementary achieved 90.4 percent and “expected growth” status, Polk Central achieved 86 percent and “expected growth” status, Polk County Early College achieved 100-percent proficiency and “expected growth” status, Polk County High School achieved 88 percent and “expected growth” status and Polk County Middle School achieved 87.1 percent and “expected growth” status.
Sunny View Elementary did not make expected or high growth status even though the school performed with an overall student grade-level proficiency of 90.4 percent among students in grades three through five.
What lowered Sunny View’s overall growth achievement, according to the report, were students’ reading achievement scores. In the 2008-2009 school year, the school’s students reached a reading proficiency of more than 90 percent. This year, that overall reading proficiency level dropped to 84.5 percent. The school’s math proficiency level placed at 94 percent, however, according to the report.
Miller explained that North Carolina’s model is a combination model that recognizes students’ grade-level proficiency and how much growth students made within a year.
How much each student improves from the end of a year is important to every child and every family, Miller said.
“What the state is trying to say is that it’s critical that as many students as possible are performing at grade level, but it’s also important that a large number of students, whether they were performing below grade level, at grade level or above grade level, achieve a year’s worth of growth,” Miller said. “A really high performing school could say it’s not easy to do that every year if 98 percent of your students were already on grade level, but the state is trying to make sure there is a reward there for constant improvement.”
Miller said there is a lot of data inside of these scores that would be difficult for the public to understand, but that the schools are using every day to make sure students are performing on a higher level each year.
The ABCs model was enacted in 1996 and expanded with No Child Left Behind in 2002. This is the final year of the ABCs of Public Education accountability program as the state transitions to the READY school accountability model in the 2012-13 school year.

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