Manassas Park City Schools, along with 127 other school divisions in the state, failed to meet the federal government’s Adequate Yearly Progress—a sign the state’s superintendent of public instruction said demonstrates that the No Child Life Behind law has, “outlived its usefulness,” according to a press release issued today.
Meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requires a school or school division to meet at least 28 benchmarks. Manassas Park City Schools met 21 benchmarks, according to data from the Virginia Department of Education.
Just four school divsions in the entire state met the federal governments standards.
If a school or school division doesn’t meet just one of those benchmarks, then it could fail to meet AYP all together, Manassas Park City Schools Superintendent Dr. Bruce McDade said.
“It’s like those old Christmas lights; when one light on the string goes out—they all go out,” McDade said. “Preliminary results tell us that we had a few more lights that didn’t make it, but overall we hit our benchmark.
While it is indeed true we did fall short in some of the subcategories, we had a good year … I just feel badly that we get this label as being a failing school (division).”
The federal and state governments look at the results of the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests that students take each spring to determine if the schools and school divisions will be accredited.
The federal government considers just reading and math SOL scores to determine if a school or school division is making AYP in accordance with the No Child Left Behind law.
The Virginia government, however, evaluates all of the subjects that appear on the SOL tests when determining if a school or school division will be accredited.
On a individual level, none of Manassas Park’s four schools made AYP. It was the second year in a row that Manassas Park High School and Manassas Park Elementary Schools did not make AYP.
Sixty-one percent of Virginia schools did not make AYP, according to data released today.
Cougar Elementary and Manassas Park Middle made AYP last year. All the schools made AYP in 2009.
Manassas Park and Cougar Elementary Schools met 20 of the 28 required elements or “Christmas Lights,” as according to McDade’s illustration of the process.
Manassas Park High met 25 of the 29 elements—graduation is the school’s additional “light”—while Manassas Park Middle met 23 of the 28 required elements.
Because Manassas Park Elementary is a Title I school that didn’t meet AYP for the second year consecutive year in the same subject area, the school is now identified as a for improvement school. The law requires that school officials let parents know of its status at the beginning of the school year.
The school must also 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 has to pay for students to attend school in a neighboring school division.
The lowest-achieving students receive transfer priority.
McDade said there’s a process he’ll have to go through if a parent decides they want their child to be transferred. This process includes writing a letter to the superintendent of the school division that is the intended recipient of the transferred student.
While he, nor his school division have ever been down this road before, he doesn’t anticipate a large number of students leaving Manassas Park Elementary, McDade said. In the past, parents of students with children enrolled in schools offering transfers decided to stay.
“Parents rarely make the decision to move,” McDade said. “The like their neighborhood schools.”
The good news is, the school division has more children scoring a perfect 600 on SOL tests than ever before, McDade said.
Children are doing better on SOL tests than they did two years ago, he said.
Writing scores went up in the elementary and middle schools, thanks to the school division implementing a writing program two years ago.
“That’s what encourages us,” McDade said. “ … We view the standards of (No Child Left Behind) as being unrealistic. It paints an unrealistic picture of who our teachers really are."
It is the school division's hope that it will get regulatory relief in the fall from federal standards, he said.
Patricia I. Wright, superintendent of public instruction for the state, said she will recommend to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan a waiver from the unrealistic expectations of the law.
“Accountability is not advanced by arbitrary rules and benchmarks that misidentify schools,” Wright said. “During the coming weeks, I will begin a discussion with the state board on creating a new model for measuring yearly progress that maintains high expectations for student achievement, recognizes growth — overall and by subgroup — and accurately identifies schools most in need of improvement.”