AHS, OHS, county system miss AYP ‘all-clear,’

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Report cards for the county’s three school systems and its 17 individual schools were released Monday and showed one system and two high schools didn’t make a passing grade.

The Alabama State Department of Education released the numbers for the 2010-2011 school year showing which schools did or did not make “adequate yearly progress” or AYP, according to the No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB is the mandate that sets national standards requiring all students to be proficient at their grade level in reading and math by 2014. Every year, a higher percentage of students must pass the required tests in order for a school to make AYP.

Those numbers showed that while Andalusia and Opp City School Systems made AYP, the Covington County School System didn’t. Neither did Andalusia High School or Opp High School.

Each state designs its own tests and determines passing scores to meet those federal standards. In Alabama, elementary and middle students are tested in the third through eighth grades using the Alabama Reading and Math Test (ARMT).

High school students are evaluated using their 11th grade math and reading scores on the Alabama High School Graduation Exam.

Students’ attendance and participation in the testing also factor into a school’s AYP score. Ninety-five percent of a school’s students must take the test and, in elementary and middle schools, each school must have 95 percent of its students attending class daily.

It takes not making goal in just one subset of students, such as special education students, Hispanic students or students eligible for free or reduced lunch, for an entire school or system to receive a failing grade.

It was this area that caused the county school system to not make AYP when two specific subsets – students in special education and those receiving free or reduced lunches – who did not meet math standards in grades 3-5 system-wide.

“All of our schools individually made AYP, which we’re very proud of,” said CCS superintendent Terry Holley. “But, system wide we did not. What happens is that on a district level, they take all schools and put them together to see if the district comes up to or below a certain level. It’s averaged to see if there is a negative or positive change. We didn’t have enough of a change to make AYP district wide.”

To combat the scores, Holley said educators will soon implement a plan for a “double doses of instruction” in the areas of reading and math.

“We’ll use our Star Reading and Star Math programs, as well as classroom instruction, for more instructional time,” he said. “We look at is as a challenge and will work to overcome it.”

Holley said he was proud of the system’s 91 percent graduation rate.

As for Andalusia and Opp, high school graduation rates proved to be a problem, with only 76 percent graduating at AHS and only 83 percent graduating from OHS. To make AYP, high schools must have a minimum 90 percent graduation rate or improve on the previous year’s rate.

Also, OHS failed to make AYP in the reading category, which is inexcusable, Opp superintendent Michael Smithart said.

“There’s no excuse for that. We have to own that one,” he said. “We know there are things we have to fix and it will be corrected. We’re going to make sure that, in the future, we teach the standards that students are being tested on in the timeframe for the testing.

“It’s disappointing,” he said of the graduation rate. “But, really there’s nothing we can do about that. Once a student has made up their mind to drop out, there’s little we can do to change it.”

ACS superintendent Ted Watson said Andalusia High School’s results were not surprising.

“We expected this,” Watson said of the school’s graduation rate. “That rate is based on last year’s class numbers, so it was not surprising to hear our results. But all things said, system-wide we did amazingly well.

AHS also failed to make AYP year-before-last, for the same reason. AHS had an 82 percent graduation rate in 2007-08, but the rate fell to 79 percent in 2008-09, causing the school to not make AYP. The graduation rate improved to 85 percent for the 2009-2010 school year, but fell again this past year.

“It’s like I heard it described, if AYP were a test, our school system would have scored a 90,” Watson said. “I refuse to be down about the hard work that our teachers did to earn that grade.”