Four out of five South Carolina elementary and middle schools fell short of meeting Adequate Yearly Progress in 2008 as federal goals increased.
AYP is the federal school report card for No Child Left Behind standards. Each year, schools must meet 100 percent of educational goals, varying from 17 to 21 objectives, to pass federal guidelines.
The goal is to have all pupils meet proficient, or B-plus averages, in English/language arts and math curricula by 2014.
The federal government contributed to the poor showing by moving test score targets for elementary and middle schools up more than 50 percent from last year's requirements. For example, schools in which 38.2 percent of pupils scored proficient in English last year would need 58.8 percent of pupils to score proficient this year.
Complete data for the state, districts and high schools won't be available until next week because of computation errors, but Aiken County will not meet AYP, said Kevin O'Gorman, Aiken County associate superintendent for instruction.
Only seven elementary and one middle school in Aiken County met 100 percent of goals. All schools must meet 100 percent for the county as a whole to make AYP. No elementary or middle school in Edgefield, Barnwell or McCormick counties met AYP.
North Augusta Middle School Principal Barry Head said his gut told him his school made improvements in the past year, even if AYP didn't show the results. His school was the only middle school in the district to score 100 percent. North Augusta Middle did not meet AYP in 2007.
Mr. Head said new diagnostic tests and teachers' willingness to alter instruction helped the school make new strides.
Last year, Aiken County implemented a test called Measures of Academic Progress, which helped Mr. Head's teachers. The test, given three times each school year, gives feedback on individual pupils and where they might be missing instruction.
"The teachers jumped on that data and started gearing instruction toward students that weren't meeting standards," Mr. Head said.
Last year, state test scores showed 94 percent of the sixth grade with a basic understanding of math and 64 percent of those pupils scoring proficient and advanced.
"I really fault AYP with having to be perfect," Mr. Head said. "Those scores this year were improvements. It's a real injustice to schools that do so well that they don't get credit. The only people that have to be perfect every day are brain surgeons."
Dr. O'Gorman said parents need to look at all the data before assuming that a school "failed."
Schools such as New Ellenton Middle took a hard blow by missing standards by one-tenth of one point.
"It's not fair to students or teachers to say they aren't successful," Dr. O'Gorman said.
State Education Superintendent Jim Rex said in a news release that he predicted this year's 50 percent increase in test requirements would cause confusion, especially in communities with schools that have previously met AYP goals.
"Principals will have trouble explaining why their schools didn't meet AYP for the first time even though their performance improved," he said in that statement. "It's a perplexing message when your school appears to be getting better and worse at the same time. Your gain ends up looking like a loss.
"Add to that the more fundamental, long-term problem with (No Child Left Behind) -- that 100 percent proficiency isn't going to happen for any state unless it sets standards for academic proficiency that are ridiculously low. There's an obvious need to make changes to the law."
AYP reports scores for all pupils, including subgroups based on race, ethnicity, disability and income.
Schools not meeting all progress goals each year are deemed "failing" under federal guidelines.
Reach Julia Sellers at (706) 823-3424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AIKEN COUNTY SCHOOLS
Those meeting all progress goals:
- Aiken Elementary
- Belvedere Elementary
- Chukker Creek Elementary
- Byrd Elementary
- Gloverville Elementary
- North Augusta Elementary
- North Augusta Middle
- Oakwood-Windsor Elementary
For more information on Aiken County elementary and middle schools' performances, visit dev.ed.sc.gov/topics/assessment/scores/ayp/2008/show_district_ayp.cfm?ID=0201. South Carolina, school district and high school information will be available next week.