Two Macon County schools and two Jackson County schools must offer parents the choice to transfer their children to neighboring schools as determined by the recently released preliminary Adequate Yearly Progress Reports (AYP).
The preliminary AYP results for the 2010- 2011 school year show that only seven out of the 11 schools in the Macon County district and five out of the nine schools in the Jackson County district made their AYP goals.
In Macon County, Mountain View Intermediate, Macon Middle, East Franklin and Nantahala School did not meet all of the target goals, or subgroups, needed to make the AYP. Because it is at least the second year within a three-year period that Macon Middle and East Franklin failed to meet AYP, the schools are identified by the state as “schools in need of improvement.” The schools face sanctions and must provide students with the public school choice, and allow them to change schools if desired. To be removed from sanctions, the school will have to meet 100 percent of their respective target goals for two consecutive years.
Macon Middle is considered to be in the “restructuring” phase because they have failed to meet their AYP’s again this year. On top of offering public schools choice, Macon Middle must also provide supplemental education services again this year, which will allow free after-school services to students who qualify.
Even though Macon Middle showed improvement from last year in some areas, as Superintendent, Dr. Dan Brigman explained, “to be moving up in sanctions, you have to make two years of failure in that same academic subject.
You could actually improve in those, but be less proficient in another academic category and still fail to meet AYP. It’s a moving target.”
In Jackson County Blue Ridge Early College, Cullowhee Valley School, Scotts Creek Elementary, Smokey Mountain Elementary, and Smoky Mountain High failed to meet AYP goals. This year will mark Smoky Mountain High School’s fourth year not making AYP. Smokey Mountain Elementary will now have missed AYP for the third year in a row, meaning they will offer students school choice and allow parents to transfer their child to Fairview. Along with school choice, Smokey Mountain will also receive supplemental education services. Altogether, Jackson County has two schools that are on sanctions due to missing the target goals set by the state.
One of the first duties of Jackson County Schools’ new superintendent, Dr. Michael Murray, was to report the AYP results. He said, “What we've learned from this Adequate Yearly Progress Report is that we’re doing some things really well, and we’ve still got some things to work on.” Similar to Dr. Brigman's comment on AYP, Murray reported that the results are often tricky to understand and can sometimes be misleading. “The tricky part is that a school must meet every single one of the targets that apply to them in order to achieve AYP. It is an all-ornothing model,” Murray continued, “So, you've got to dig a little deeper and see what the data are telling you about the children and how they’re doing; you can’t just take it at face value,” Murray said.
According to Kathryn Kantz, Cullowhee Valley Principal, in order to ensure Jackson County continues progressing, district-wide math and literacy coaches are being hired as another improvement strategy.
“These folks will work directly with teachers to help them explore and implement teaching and learning practices that are proven to be good for students.”
Although alternative schools are not subject to the same regulations as other public schools, they set their own AYP goals. Jackson County School of Alternatives, also known as the HUB, met all three of target goals they set, making AYP for the first time since the program started during the 2001- 2002 school year. Their three target goals focused on improving math and reading score as well as increasing the graduation rate. They achieved all three goals and increased the graduation rate from 54 percent to 65 percent.
Beverly Vanhook only assumed the position of principal at the alternative school on July 1, but she has known members of the faculty and staff for more than 5 years and is already very proud of what they have achieved. “We have a great group of faculty and staff that work together and specialize in individualized instruction. They are very open to innovative ideas and new strategies to cater to each students’ needs.”
AYP is defined by the United States NCLB act that allows the U.S. Department of Education to measure how schools and their respective districts are performing on an academic level according to standardized test scores. AYP is intended to track improvement within schools and determine where financial resources should be assigned to continue progress. In order to meet the AYP, each school must meet the targets set by the state. Target goals are established to encourage improvement in specific areas such as a 95 percent overall attendance rate for the year or a 95 percent participation rate in the End of Grade (EOG) scores.
During the Monday, July 25, Macon County Board of Education meeting held in Franklin, Pat Davis, Director of Testing and Accountability for Macon County schools informed the board that even with the majority of the students showing improvement, the schools overall can still miss the AYP because of a specific sub-group.
According to Davis, that’s the case with Mountain View Intermediate. “Because Mountain View is a larger school it’s at a disadvantage because it has more sub-groups and more targets that have to show improvement, it gets a little harder when you have 21 and 25 sub-groups.” Davis explained that by looking at the data in the AYP report, it is apparent that Macon Middle and Mountain View not only had the lowest AYP percentages in the county, they are also faced with the challenge of the most students in subgroups.
The NCLB act defines four sub-group categories for individual schools to adhere to: Economically disadvantaged, special education, limited English proficient students and students from major racial/ethnic groups.
During the meeting Davis reported that the End of Course (EOC) scores fluctuate each year and that if one year a school is high or low in a specific subject, the next year will probably be the opposite. Davis spoke to the specific progress within individual schools, stating that Franklin High School showed a great deal of improvement in English I and US History. Highlands School also did well, having more than 95 percent of their students scoring “proficient”, meaning they scored a 3 or 4 on the EOC, in multiple subject areas. Macon Early College, which is located on South Western Community College’s campus, and Nantahala, also had greater than 95 percent of their students scoring proficient in multiple subject areas.
While explaining the EOG scores, Davis said, “Overall, our math is quite a bit higher than our reading scores.” She reported that Macon County was aware of the need for a greater focus in reading within its schools even before the results, which is why a reading program was offered this summer as one method to work toward raising the districts reading scores.