Virginia schools are using a new standard this year to determine if low performing schools and school divisions are meeting benchmarks in reading and mathematics.
from the provisions of the federal government’s No Child Left Behind law, the Virginia Department of Education was able to implement a new method for measuring schools' progress, state department of education spokesman Charles Pyle said this week.
Instead of meeting federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as outlined by No Child Left Behind, Virginia and the federal government now grade state schools based on its own, updated Achievable Annual Measurable Objectives or AMOs.
Education officials are still updating the AMOs, but the old ones can be reviewed on the department of education’s website, Pyle said.
The AMOs are used to measure the progress of the three student groups that have historically had trouble meeting the Commonwealth’s standard of achievement.
These groups are:
Proficiency Gap Group 1 — Students with disabilities, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students, regardless of race and ethnicity
Proficiency Gap Group 2 — African-American students, not of Hispanic origin, including those also counted in Proficiency Gap Group 1
Proficiency Gap Group 3 — Hispanic students, of one or more races, including those also counted in Proficiency Gap Group 1.
All public schools, regardless of performance level, must develop and implement improvement plans to raise the achievement of student subgroups not meeting the annual benchmarks, according to a release issued Monday by the Virginia Department of Education.
School divisions also are expected to meet the new annual measurable objectives in reading and mathematics for all student subgroups and proficiency gap groups, according to the release.
"Our teachers have been working very hard preparing students for the more rigorous SOL (Standards of Learning) examinations, based on the revised standards," said Bruce McDade, superintendent of Manassas Park City Schools
"Last year, for example, our students were exposed to a more rigorous mathematics SOL test that featured technologically enhanced test items. This year, more rigorous SOL tests in science and reading will challenge students next spring. Our teachers, support staff and administrators are ready for the challenge, and are excited for the year to begin."
The ultimate goal of the updated AMOs is to reduce by half the proficiency gaps in reading and mathematics among schools performing at the 20th and 90th percentiles —overall and for each subgroup and proficiency gap group—over six years, according to the release.
The AMOs were determined using a formula based on the federal law and student-achievement data from the state’s assessment program. Annual reading benchmarks for the first year of flexibility are based on achievement on 2010-2011 state assessments and mathematics benchmarks are based on achievement during 2011-2012.
Reading benchmarks will be reset next year based on the performance of students during 2012-2013 on new reading SOL tests reflecting the increased rigor of the 2010 English standards, according to the release.
Along with no requirement to meet federal AYP ratings, schools and divisions will no longer face improvement sanctions, such as having to provide public school choice or private tutoring to their students.
None of Manassas Park schools made AYP last year, resulting in the division being labeled as "failing" under the standards.
"I am pleased we are out from under a system of accountability where targets were unrealistic and unattainable, particularly this past year," McDade said. "Many school divisions, including our own, were labeled “failing,” which was unfair. Manassas Park City Schools is a highly-successful school division."
Because Manassas Park Elementary School, a Title I school, didn’t meet AYP for the second year in a row last year, it was required to offer students the option to transfer to a school within the division that isn’t identified as a for improvement school. Because Manassas Park doesn’t have another elementary school, the school division was required to pay for students to attend school in a neighboring school division, but none did.
Five percent of Virginia’s 36 Title I schools will be identified as priority schools based on overall reading and mathematics achievement as well as graduation rates for high schools. Priority schools must engage a state-approved turnaround partner to help implement a school-improvement model meeting state and federal requirements.
Ten percent of Virginia’s 72 Title I schools will be designated as focus schools based on reading and mathematics achievement of students in the three proficiency gap groups.
Focus schools must employ a state-approved coach to help the division develop, implement and monitor intervention strategies to improve the performance of students at risk of not meeting achievement standards or dropping out of school.
The state department of education hasn't released data about what schools are labeled priority or focused.
"The commonwealth and school divisions are now able to focus federal resources on the schools most in need of reform while maintaining accountability for raising achievement in all schools through Virginia’s accreditation standards,” Board of Education President David M. Foster said.