Botetourt County students did better this past school year on testing that’s required to meet the federally mandated Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for math and reading.
A pretty good accomplishment, school officials believe, because students here were already doing well.
But, Botetourt County Public Schools did not “pass” under the AYP standards, even though the division did the year before.
The reason—the percentage of county students with disabilities who passed the standardized testing did not meet the AYP objectives, according to Assistant Superintendent of Schools John Busher.
Read Mountain Middle School (RMMS) is the only individual school that did not meet the AYP objectives for the 2009-10 school year.
RMMS did not meet the AYP because of two subsets of students. In English, a high enough percentage of economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities did not pass. In mathematics, a high enough percentage of students with disabilities did not pass.
For a school or school division to make AYP, more than 81 percent of students overall and students in all AYP subgroups—white, black, Hispanic, limited English proficient (LEP), students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged—must have demonstrated proficiency on Standards of Learning (SOL) and other assessments in reading, and more than 79 percent must have passed state tests in mathematics.
In Botetourt, 92.9 percent passed English and 91.6 percent passed math.
All the other Botetourt schools met the AYP, even though some of them had students with disabilities that did not meet the standards. That’s what affected the division’s AYP.
Busher said a school with fewer than 50 students with disabilities or disadvantaged students meets the AYP even if the percentage of students passing the tests is below the AYP standard.
However, those students are added up for the entire division, and that’s what affected the county’s overall AYP.
“It’s irritating as heck because we make gains every year,” Busher said. In fact, he said many school divisions would love to have the kind of AYP rates that Botetourt has.
In fact, all four of the county’s Title I schools met the AYP. Title I schools are those with a high percentage of students from low-income families.
Still, not meeting the AYP standards means the school division and RMMS have to establish curriculum plans to help students make improvements in math and reading—plans Busher said are now in place.
Those plans essentially address the individual student.
“Since we’re getting close to the 100 percent pass rate, then we’re talking about individual students and what we need to do for them,” Busher said. In many cases, it’s only one or two students in a particular school.
Over the summer, Busher said the school division made curriculum adjustments as part of its efforts to improve students scores.
The school division also established “progress monitoring” for those students needing help, and established new screening tools and progress monitoring for second graders. AYP testing begins in third grade and continues through high school.
The school division also made assessments of how much instructional time and remediation an individual student will need so he or she can pass the standardized testing.
Busher likened the approach to how a doctor might handle a patient—diagnose the problem, set a course of treatment, monitor the treatment to be sure it’s working, and make treatment adjustments if needed.
Meeting the AYP standards will get harder. By 2013-14 school year, 100 percent of students must pass the standardized testing in math and reading (English).
That’s the Annual Measurable Objective (AMO) that’s been established under the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was No Child Left Behind.
Each year, the AMO, or percentage of students who must pass the English and math testing increases for the state, school districts and schools to be considered on track for 100 percent proficiency by school year 2013-14.
“The problem with AYP—is every kid going to make 100 percent?” Busher asked.
“Even though we didn’t make the AYP, when you look at the chart (accompanying this article), obviously we’re making a difference with individual kids,” Busher said.
Busher said what the school division is doing to help individual students has already worked.
Last year, Central Academy Middle School did not meet AYP. The staff there established plans for the students who were struggling, and this year CAMS met AYP.
Busher said while it has not been announced by the state, Botetourt schools will get state accreditation, which is a different rating that reflects overall achievement in English, history/social science, mathematics and science. Schools in which students meet or exceed achievement objectives established by the Virginia Board of Education in these four major content areas are rated as “fully accredited.”
The AYP is based only on math, reading and, in Botetourt’s case, attendance. AYP ratings also are based on overall achievement and achievement by student subgroups.
Elementary schools are “fully accredited” by the state if students achieve all of the following pass rates:
• English – 75 percent or higher, grades 3-5
• Mathematics – 70 percent or higher, grades 3-5
• Science – 70 percent or higher in grade 5 and 50 percent or higher in grade 3
• History – 70 percent or higher in Virginia Studies (grade 4 or 5) and 50 percent or higher in grade 3
Middle schools and high schools are “fully accredited” if students achieve pass rates of 70 percent or higher in all four content areas.
Beginning with ratings announced in fall 2011, high schools must meet graduation objectives as well as achieve the required pass rates on state SOLs in the four core subjects of English, history/social science, mathematics and science in order to get full state accreditation.
AYP report cards for each school division and individual schools are on the Virginia Department of Education website at: https://p1pe.doe.virginia.gov/reportcard/
The report cards provide passing percentages for individual schools, grades and subject areas.