Can’t rest on laurels

First Posted: 8/6/2009

Anytime your school system is able to show substantial improvement in scores in any area of measurement of educational achievement, you cant help but be pleased.
And thats true even if the reason for the improvement is as simple as getting better scores on a take-over test than were received for the test the first time it was taken.
So, for whatever reason the number of schools making Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, during the past school year increased from seven the year before to 21 this past year, you have to be happy.
After all, a 300 percent increase is certainly something to be proud of.
Further, because of the way yearly progress is determined, 13 more schools in the county system were just short of the number needed to reach recognition as having met AYP. Unfortunately, being close to making AYP is not sufficient. The school must be successful at all levels to be included among those schools listed as having reached the top plateau.
As people familiar with the No Child Left Behind Act may know, tests associated with the AYP change periodically and, each time there is a change, there is a decline in scores and also in schools making AYP. If you think about it, that makes sense.
This years improvement came as the result of teachers becoming more familiar with the reading test in its second year. Becoming more familiar with the test translated into being able to teach it better with the resulting improved results on behalf of the students taking the test.
Unfortunately, if you project future results, you can expect a drop in scores every time a new test is introduced. That should then be followed by improvement the next year after the test becomes more familiar to the students and the teachers.
Since its important for the sake of improving the education of our students to set ever higher goals, AYP goals are increased periodically so that the students are regularly encouraged to work harder to reach those higher goals.
For example, the current 43.2 percent of students tested who must be reading at that grade level this year will go up to 71.6 percent in the 2010-11 school year. It can almost be compared to holding a carrot on a stick in front of a rabbit. Theoretically, at least, the rabbits efforts will eventually be rewarded with a taste of the carrot.
We, of course, would not compare the students efforts with those of the rabbit but you can see the value of encouraging the students efforts to obtain improved scores. Certainly it would make sense that that would be the intent of the Department of Public Instructions use of AYP scores under the conditions of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Of the 21 schools who made AYP this past year, 17 were elementary schools, two were middle schools and two were high schools. Hopefully, next years list will be longer and will include some of those schools who were close to making it this year.
Johnny Hunt is the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County.

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