AYP: A mixed message for schools

Published 8:42 am Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Selma Superintendent of Education Dr. Donald Jefferson spends the afternoon looking over one print out after another, one report after another and one statistical worksheet after another.

Through each of them, he sees figures showing marked improvement and troubled areas that will require much attention.

Overall, as Jefferson spent his time reviewing the recently released Adequate Yearly Progress reports by the Alabama Department of Education, he said he is a little “troubled.”

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“When you look through all of this, we have 10 out of our 11 schools achieve their goals. We have 77 percent of our students reading at or above their reading level and we have 71 percent of our students understanding math at or above their reading level. Yet, the district still does not meet AYP,” Jefferson said. “That’s a little disheartening. But, it just goes to show you that we are always shooting at a moving target.”

The moving target is the AYP goals themselves.

The AYP results were part of the 2010-2011 Accountability Reports issued Monday by the Alabama State Department of Education, scoring each school system and each individual school on the objectives established by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2011.

The objective of the act, and the resulting AYP goals, is to have each grade, each school, achieving 100 percent proficiency by 2014, which means the targeted goals for schools and school systems increase each year.

For the school system itself, it achieved each of its objectives over the last year, with the lone exception of those goals established for special education. In that area, the system fell short, thus forcing the district to be among those listed as not achieving AYP.

Although Jefferson saw some improvements and positive signs in the reports, such as the nearly perfect results from Knox Elementary, the failure of one school missing AYP and the system missing has some troubling drawbacks.

For the third year consecutive year, Selma High School missed its AYP goals. Combine that with the system’s results, Selma City Schools are poised to lose significant flexibility in the way it can spend Title I funds.

“It costs you dearly. A system — a school — simply cannot afford to miss AYP,” Jefferson said. “Because of the requirements, we are now going to be faced with funding programs with fewer dollars.”

Each of Selma’s 11 schools are Title I schools due to the number of students at each school receiving free or reduced lunch. This means the system is in line for a reported $2.3 million in funding, with more than half of that going to Pre-K programs.

The remainder of those funds go to other Title I related educational programs.

Since Selma High missed AYP, the system now must dedicate $400,000 of Title I funding to programs and vendors in Supplemental Education Services, aimed at improving results at the high school. An additional $200,000 will have to be spent on similar improvement programs and vendors at other system schools because the system failed to meet its goals.

“This is money that could have gone to other schools throughout the system,” Jefferson said. “We simply cannot afford to lose out on these funds like we have.”

Selma High did show improvement in the graduation exam rates, with 87 percent of students passing the state exam. This was a slight improvement over the 2009-2010 year and was nearly on par with that of the state average.