Despite Upward Trend, Subgroups Struggle to Reach Targets
District is in its second year of early warning status in the middle school.
While the district continues to show progress toward No Child Left Behind Act benchmarks, missed marks in several key subgroups continue to cause concern for school officials.
According to the most recent numbers, released in late August, the district is in its second year of early warning status in the middle school, where students in the economically disadvantaged subgroup missed adequate yearly progress targets on the math exam.
Meanwhile, several district schools, including Amsterdam, Sunnymead, Triangle, Woodfern and Woods Road Elementary Schools achieved Safe Harbor status in Language Arts for students with disabilities. Woodfern, however, did not reach its Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark for students with disabilities for math, putting it in its first year of early warning status.
“All that it means is that a certain subgroup did not meet AYP for one year,” Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Lisa Antunes said.
Auten Road Intermediate School is also in year-one early warning status, seeing missed benchmarks in Literacy for students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged subgroups. The school did reach Safe Harbor status for math for its economically disadvantaged subgroup at that grade level, however.
The school’s sixth grade students met the Safe Harbor designation in math for its Hispanic subgroup and those with disabilities, while economically disadvantaged students met that designation for literacy.
At the high school level, the subgroup students with disabilities are in year-one early warning-status after missing benchmarks on the math assessements, Antunes reported.
The No Child Left Behind Act set-up requires students in each school district to reach a certain set of proficiency benchmarks each year in math, science and literacy. School district that don’t reach those benchmarks face—or fail to reach a Safe Harbor designation, which is a 10 percent improvement over the prior year’s score—can face state intervention, restructuring of schools that consistently miss marks, district restructuring and economic sanctions.
But the act also divides students into several key subgroups by race or ethnicity, economic status, and whether a student has Special Needs. Children can count in a subgroup more than once as well, according to Antunes.
“Students count more than once for each subgroup,” she said. “If you are an economically disadvantaged Hispanic classified student, you will count in the economically disadvantaged subgroup, the Hispanic subgroup, as well as the total population, so your score counts three times. Conversely, if you get advanced proficient, your score counts that way as well.”
Despite several of the subgroups not meeting the benchmarks, the district reported an upward trend year-to-year in both language arts and math in its elementary levels, meaning that the students in those grades show progression as they move from one grade to another, Antunes said. But the data also shows a dip in middle school-level mathematics that evens out by the high school years.
“There’s something going on in that middle year that we can’t determine why there’s some erratic results,” Antunes said.
The district’s overall science scores are consistent year to year, though there is a slight dip in eighth grade. Antunes attributed that result to a harder test in that particular year.
A jump in the benchmarks presented another problem for the district, as it saw ten to 20 percent jumps in certain grade levels. Antunes noted a 20 percent jump—from 59 percent proficiency to 79 percent proficiency—in the grades three, four and five literacy exam benchmarks, as well as similar increases in other grade levels and subject areas.
“This current increase is leading to an increase in students not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress across the state, which essentially means there are more schools and/or districts that become ‘in status’,” Antunes said. “That’s not a good thing. It means there are more schools that are in need of improvement or more districts that are in need of improvement.”
As with every year, the district will continue to address its problem areas, using a variety of strategies, Antunes said. As with many years, it will continue to revise its curriculum in key areas, while also concentration on online learning and technology integration—something District Superintendent Jorden Schiff stressed in his Building on Excellence report.
“Teachers are breaking down the walls of the school building and bringing in the world,” Antunes said.
In addition, the district is looking toward using its assessment data to target problem areas and tailoring lessons to classes and to individual students.
“We’re going to focus on boosting our performance in literacy, we’re going to work on fixing our performance dip in the middle ages, and we’re going to focus on strengthening our achievement in eighth grade for science,” Antunes said.