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Four Calvert Schools Fail To Meet Goals: Education system to appeal results

Sue Allison, Maryland resistance leader, comment: You should read this results wrap-up pice from the Calvert Recorder, not for the Calvert results--but to see what things are probably like in local district offices all over the country.

Administrators are combing through test results --student by student. What subgroup is each student being "counted in" to show the best school based results? Are special ed. students being counted with their home school or the school they are attending for special ed. services? Was the high scoring student who moved into special ed. status mid-year counted in the special ed. subgroup? And on and on and on. Makes you wonder how much time and money is spent on this AYP accounting nonsense that has no educational purpose whatsoever. I certainly can't blame administrators for doing this, given the draconian federal penalties for not making AYP--but the article really is a sad commentary on what public education has been reduced to by these micromanaging reforms.

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Four schools in Calvert County did not meet annual progress goals based on preliminary data from the Maryland State Assessments. Calvert County Public Schools will appeal all four schools’ status and expect that some or all will be rescinded. “We have no schools in the school improvement [status],” said Ted Haynie, Calvert County Public Schools director of school performance. However, four schools – Beach, Patuxent and St. Leonard elementary schools and Mill Creek Middle School – did not meet their annual progress goals, placing them on alert status. Two consecutive of missing a goal in the same area places a school on school improvement status. Consequences of being placed on the school improvement status ranges from replacing teachers and administrators at the school in question, to extending the school year for that school.

Parents received each students’ home report with his or her scores. Most of Calvert’s elementary and middle schools sent home the scores with the student’s report card. The results released to the public Monday are for each student subgroup, such as students receiving free and reduced meals or special education or race,, and each elementary and middle school as a whole. Overall school district results and state results were not yet available.

To satisfy the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements, Maryland uses the MSA to check school progress, called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). In reading and math for grades three through eight an Annual Measurable Objective (AMO) is set for each school. The percent bars for student subgroups, schools, school districts and the state are raised every year until 100 percent of students in each subgroup score proficiently on the tests. “This is really round one where we look at our AYP information,” Haynie said. He and his colleagues have found some inconsistencies between the school system’s data and the MSDE data.
Mill Creek Middle School, which failed to meet it AMO for special education reading last year, showed great improvement in that subgroup this year, Haynie said. However, the middle school did not make its goal in special education math this year. A guideline from MSDE kept the school from going into school improvement status. “You have to miss the AMO in the same subject area for two years in a row,” to go to school improvement status, he said. “The way it is now is you could be on alert status forever if you keep flip flopping subjects [not making an AMO].”

Only 13 of 88 special education students at Mill Creek scored proficient on the reading MSA’s. The 14.8 percent was far short of the AMO goal of 35.8 percent, but only a several students below the confidence interval set at 21.7 percent. Each subgroup has a confidence interval that accounts for statistical errors by widening the margin of error as fewer students make up a subgroup. According to MSDE, Patuxent Elementary failed to make it AMO in special education math. However, the school only has kindergarten through second grade students and the MSA tests are given in grades three through eight. “I’m puzzled,” about Patuxent Elementary, said Karen Hunter, the supervisor of system performance for Calvert County Public Schools. “That’s an error.” The school system has contacted MSDE and they are working to correct the error, she said. “They will be held accountable for third graders,” she said. The students who finished second grade at Patuxent Elementary will be tracked and their third grade scores at Appeal Elementary will count towards Pauxent’s goal.

St. Leonard and Beach elementary schools missed the AMO’s for special education reading. At St. Leonard 16 of the 47 special education students scored proficient on the reading MSA’s, three students short for meeting the confidence interval and making AYP. The 34 percent pass rate was just shy of the 39 percent confidence interval the group needed to meet its goal, however, it was well below the AMO of 57.8 percent. Beach Elementary fell similarly short, with 11 of 34 special education students scoring proficient on the reading MSA’s for 32.4 percent. Beach’s confidence interval was set at 34.8 percent; meaning if one more student had scored proficient the school would have made AYP.

“We are going to appeal all four of these schools,” Haynie said. Local school systems have until July 14 to appeal MSDE data. The differences lie in the way students are coded, he said. Students fall into different subgroups depending on individual situations and sometimes appear at the wrong school. For example, at St. Leonard Elementary a student moved into special education in the middle of the year and scored proficient on the test but was not counted in the special education subgroup. Also, Beach Elementary houses a program for special education students from other county schools. Those students should be counted in their home schools, Hunter said, not with Beach scores as they appear to have been.

In both elementary schools, “There were only a handful of special education students in each case that tripped the school,” Haynie said. Haynie was ultimately pleased with the progress Calvert County schools are making on the MSA tests. “I though 100 percent was so unrealistic at first…but I honestly believe 100 percent is in our grasp,” he said. The MSDE wants all students in Maryland to pass the MSA test by the year 2014. “We have names and faces behind the numbers and have comprehensive interventions” for them to improve performance next year, Haynie said.

A change in the works is a modified MSA for an additional number of special education students, Haynie said. Currently the 1 percent most in need of a school is allowed to take the alt-MSA. Starting next year, schools will offer a modified MSA to the next 2 percent of special education students most in need. The alt-MSA and the modified MSA together will cover the 3 percent of special education students most in need of assistance, MSDE spokesperson Bill Reinhard said. The modified MSA will be “based in the current MSA with some changes,” he said. A modified test will be developed for math and reading for each grade tested. Also new next year, schools will administer the MSA two weeks later to allow for more instructional time and MSDE will return test results earlier.

Every three years, including this year, the AYP has a larger increase. The AYP goals will increase for each school, but at a slower rate. Charles County did not have any schools in school improvement status. St. Mary’s Public Schools have two schools entering needs improvement status after two consecutive years of missed goals and one school exiting alert status. Maryland had 179 elementary schools and middle schools identified for school improvement status last year, according to MSDE. That number dropped to 173 schools this year with the release of the preliminary 2005 results. The 173 elementary and middle schools how in school improvement represent 16 percent of Maryland elementary and middle schools. Complete schools and subgroup AYP results can be found on the Web site http://www.mdreportcard.org

— Jesse Yeatman
Calvert Recorder


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