Area schools get graded on AYP

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 21, 2005

The State Department of Education has released its grades of local school systems, but officials say it’s hard to say whether the schools did well, and still harder to say if there has been improvement because the state has changed the way it calculates the grades, the criteria it uses and the way it reports them.

“Each year, revisions are made to better meet requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law and increase knowledge and performance,” Mitch Edwards, public affairs officer for the Department of Education. “This year schools were graded on four areas instead of the three they were graded on last year. This year we added highly qualified teachers.”

The added area was not what has school officials skeptical, but the change in the way reports are made.

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In the area of math and reading proficiency, this year the schools were graded on students scores on the Alabama Math and Reading Test instead of the Stanford Achievement Test. Additionally, the scores were given in disaggregated data – data broken down into subgroups based on socioeconomic status and race rather than averaged among all students.

“Part of our Adequate Yearly Progress is based on scores by those students receiving free and reduced lunches, basically those students who come from poverty backgrounds,” Dr. Wesley Hill, Demopolis City Schools superintendent, said. “Those students are a real concern of ours, and we are taking steps to help improve their scores.”

One such step, new this year, is the requirement that any student not passing a course must take the course during the summer in order to be promoted.

“We have adopted a new grading procedure where we mandate poor-achieving students to go to summer school to be promoted,” Hill explained.

Regardless of the new system, Hill said Demopolis City Schools were still among the 50th percentile of schools across the state, meaning they are on average for most subjects.

Though Marengo County Schools did not score low, Superintendent Luke Hallmark said parents should not look at the recently released scores, but wait for new report cards that will come out in the next few days with corrected scores.

“We had some errors on the report cards,” Hallmark said, noting that Marengo County was not the only system that had found problems with their reports.

“We had a superintendents’ meeting this week and that issue was discussed,” he said. “That’s why it’s always important to look at these cards when you get them and look at the numbers and make sure they match.”

Already, Amelia L. Johnson High School’s report card has been changed to reflect a perfect 100 percent on its AYP – having met 13 of 13 goals. Hallmark said the same is going to happen for Sweet Water High School.

Because of the Superintendent’s meeting, many of the area superintendents could not be reached for comment, but the report cards reflect some good, and some bad, news for those systems.

Linden City Schools received an A from the state on its spending per student, spending $8,121.88 per student last year. That was more than any other system in the five-county area.

Hale County Schools administered the ACT to 120 students, for an average score of 18.2 – that is more students taking the college-entrance test than any other school system, including Demopolis, and a score second in our area, coming in behind Demopolis’ average ACT score of 19.9.

Greene County did not fair as well, receiving a D on its projected 4-year dropout rate, with a projected 23.35 percent of its students projected to drop out over the next four years. It is important to note, however, that the state used a different formula this year, tracking students for a longer period of time than in previous years.

The county system had a similar problem with its ACT scores, with 31 students taking the test for an average score of 16.5, giving the system an F. Not all was bad news for Greene County, though, as the system received a B- in spending per student – $6,857.96 per student.

Sumter County Schools blew away the local competition when it received an A for its projected 4-year dropout rate of 3.37 percent. A slightly lower grade of B- was achieved for spending per student, with $7,027.70 per student last year. Unfortunately, the system received an F on its ACT score, with 94 students taking the test for an average score of 16.5.

Perry County Schools also failed the ACT portion of the report card, with 69 students taking the test for an average score of 16.1.

Though paper report cards will be sent home to parents in the next few weeks, the report cards are available for viewing on the Department of Education’s Web site at