August 10, 2012 at 7:59 AM
More Alabama schools in 2012 met the yearly progress goals of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Education.
Seventy-five percent of Alabama’s 1,365 schools met academic standards known as Adequate Yearly Progress in 2011-2012. That’s an increase from 73 percent last year.
State Superintendent Tommy Bice said overall he was pleased with the results. But he also cautioned that he believed the federal accountability program had outlived its “effectiveness” and didn’t necessarily give an accurate picture of high and low-performing schools.
“Overall, the results are very encouraging, We’ve seen the percentages go up where they needed to go up,” Bice said.
The No Child Left Behind law mandates schools make progress in student performance in reading and math while also tracking graduation and attendance rates. The progress goals increase each year on the way toward the federal law’s goal of having all students proficient by 2014. However, the state got a waiver this year, so schools only had to meet last year’s benchmarks instead of boosting performance.
“It gave us a little bit of wiggle room, but most of our schools stepped up to the plate and did what they needed to do,” Bice said.
Twenty-six school systems across the state failed to meet their AYP goals.
Midfield was one of those, and the only school system in Jefferson and Shelby counties that failed to meet AYP goals. However, dozens of individual schools across the metro area did not meet their AYP goals.
All three of the schools in Midfield — Midfield Elementary School, Midfield High School and Rutledge School — did not make AYP this year, according to the Department of Education.
Midfield High School made 60 percent of goals, while Rutledge made 88 percent and Midfield Elementary made 77 percent. Schools have to meet 100 percent of goals to pass.
Midfield Board of Education President Nay Hutton said he couldn’t comment on the AYP results because he hasn’t seen them.
Hutton said the AYP scores likely will be discussed at the board’s next regular meeting, on Aug. 20, or during a special meeting scheduled for Monday to discuss finalizing new Superintendent Demica Sanders’ contract, he said.
Other school systems that did not make AYP this year include Blount, Chilton, Cullman, St. Clair and Walker counties.
Three local systems that failed to make AYP last year — Jefferson County and Birmingham and Hoover city systems — all succeeded this year.
In Birmingham, 36 schools made AYP and 17 didn’t. Bice declined to discuss Birmingham city school’s performance, citing the ongoing litigation and dispute over the state’s intervention in the system.
In Jefferson County, 34 schools made AYP and 22 didn’t. In Hoover, 13 schools made AYP and three didn’t: Berry Middle School, Brock’s Gap Intermediate School and Trace Crossings Elementary School. In Shelby County, 33 schools made AYP and four didn’t: Calera Middle School; Linda Nolen Learning Center; Columbiana Middle School; and Thompson High School.
However, Bice urged caution in interpreting the AYP data. He cited the failure of Homewood Middle School, in the Homewood city school system, to make AYP this year as an example of the problems and limitations of the No Child Left Behind testing.
Bice said the majority of students did well, but the school fell down because of performance in the special education subgroup on one day.
“That’s regretful because if that’s not communicated, people could look at Homewood as being a school of not quality. That’s not the case. That’s just a fallacy of the system,” Bice said.
Homewood school Superintendent Bill Cleveland said Homewood Middle School met 24 of 25 academic goals. Three of the nearly 800 students at the middle school tested in reading were considered “not proficient,” he said. The three students are part of a special education subgroup that is held to the same standards as other students, Cleveland said.
“If a school does not meet its AYP benchmarks in every demographic subgroup, the entire school is labeled as a failing school,”he said.
Bice said that, in other cases, there are some schools that make AYP that are performing at a lower level than schools that failed to meet AYP goals. Department officials want to analyze the data to pinpoint and work with lower-performing schools, he said.
No Child Left Behind had a positive impact when it was implemented a decade ago, Bice said, but he questioned its current value.
“We’re at the point where AYP has lost its effectiveness,” Bice said. The state is seeking a waiver from No Child Left Behind and wants to put in place its own methodology for tracking performance called Plan 2020. Under that, schools would be rated in a more complicated way involving a growth model, which would show how much individual students are learning each year, as well as measure whether schools are preparing students for either college or the workforce.
Bice said teachers are “elated” at the possibility of ending No Child Left Behind.
“We want to take the focus off the test in the spring so teachers are focused on teaching and learning throughout the year,” Bice said.
“I absolutely hope it’s the last year we talk about AYP,” Bice said.
News staff writers William Singleton and Anne Ruisi and Press-Register staff writer Rena Havner Philips contributed to this report.
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