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News Education Macon County schools receive state report cards

Four schools recognized as Schools of Distinction

The state Board of Education has released North Carolina's annual report cards for public schools. The report released in early August was intended to show how students performed on end-of year and end-of-course tests taken in third through 12th grade. These include reading and mathematics in grades 3-8; Science tests in grades five and eight; and end-of-course tests in English I, Algebra I and biology. Other measures include the cohort graduation rate and student performance on alternate assessments for certain students with disabilities.

According to Pat Davis, Director of Testing and Accountability for Macon County School System, Macon County Schools finished the 2011-12 school year with four schools receiving the recognition of being Schools of Distinction, meaning the schools were identified for making at least expected growth and had at least 80 percent of their students' scores at or above Achievement Level III. Those schools are Cartoogechaye, Franklin High School, Highlands High School and South Macon. Of the 2,482 public schools across North Carolina, 704 or 28.4 percent were deemed Schools of Distinction.

Cartoogechaye, Franklin High School, Highlands High School, Macon Middle School and South Macon were deemed schools of High Growth by the state, meaning the schools maintained their high growth standard of continued progress. Those schools were among the 43.9 percent of schools in the state to meet the high academic growth standards.

In addition, Iotla, Macon Middle School, and Union Academy were identified as finishing with Expected Growth meaning schools attained their expected growth standard, but not their high growth standard, joining the 35.6 percent of schools who met the expected growth targets in the state.

Growth projections of expected student performance based on previous test scores are reset each year by the state.

Cartoogechaye, Macon Early College, Macon Middle School, Nantahala School and South Macon were recognized as meeting all Annual Measurable Objectives or AMO targets, meaning each school successfully completed all proficiency targets that were set for each student subgroup.

For the fourth consecutive year, the state's budget failed to include funding for the ABCs incentive awards for qualifying educators whose schools met or exceeded its growth goals. This is the 16th and final year of the ABCs program. Next year, the school accountability effort will be replaced by online testing and school ratings based on skills students need for college or work.

Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, North Carolina public schools will operate under the new READY accountability model with first-year results reported in Fall 2013. Also beginning this year, all public school teachers will be using the state’s new Standard Course of Study, which includes common core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics. The state’s assessment program will include formative assessments along with end-of-grade and end-of-course assessments to gauge students’ grasp of the subject matter. Teachers will use these formative assessments as a “pulse check” on student proficiency, but not part of the accountability program.

“The ABCs model has served North Carolina well by focusing on school-level accountability, and back in the mid-1990s when the AMCs model began, this model was considered groundbreaking,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson. “Our new READY accountability model will replace the ABCs beginning this school year, will stay focused on individual schools, but will more squarely measure career and college readiness.”

The READY model of testing comes after a 2007 decision by the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent to commission a blue ribbon task force to review past practices and to consider what students need to be successful after high school for entry-level employment, community college or a university.

“The resulting Framework for Change was approved in 2008, and work began to accomplish all of the 27 recommendations,” said Davis. “The recommendations covered student testing and a stronger, revised curriculum as a foundation for better assessments and better learning. Collectively, the Framework for Change work was called the ACRE (Accountability and Curriculum Reform Effort) initiative.”

According to Davis, the new testing model will be geared toward evaluating the common core curriculum that has been implanted this year.

“The READY assessments are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Teachers have been given information relating to the weight distributions of the standards on the new assessments,” said Davis. “Curriculum directors, principals, and teachers have been deeply engaged in implementing the Common Core and Essential Standards in all classrooms in Macon County Schools.”

In order to be able to be in compliance with the state mandate and new READY model, Macon County Schools needed a complete overhaul in technology. With too few computers for students to take the time alloted by the state for online testing, and because the computers the schools did have were on a nine year rotation for upgrades, the school system requested $1.5 million from Macon County Commissioners to fully upgrade the schools technology ensuring they will be ready for testing at the end of this semester.

Davis explained that the NCDPI released the document, “Online Assessments Best Practices Guide: Support for LEAs and Charter Schools in the Transition to Online Summative Assessments” in July 0f 2011, which highlighted the school system's requirement for the new testing model. Since then, Tim Burrell, Director of Technology, has been following the state's document's recommendations closely to ensure that Macon County School’s technology plan supports instruction as well as online assessments.

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