School performance was reported in three ways: the school met its expected growth based on a formula that factored in past performance, statewide averages and a statistical adjustment; the school had exemplary growth, which means the school exceeded expected growth by an additional 10%; or the school failed to meet its growth standard as determined by the State Board. (School-by-school results are listed in the accompanying report). ABCs results are based on End-of-Grade testing in reading and mathematics (grades 3-8) and writing (grade 4 for both performance and growth, and grade 7 for performance only for 1996-97). Writing in grade 7 will be included in the growth category in the future.
State Board Chairman Dr. Jay Robinson said The ABCs is an improvement over past reform efforts because it holds individual schools and not just school systems accountable for how well their students perform. "Our goal," he said, "was to give citizens and educators a way to know how each individual school was doing in terms of student achievement overall and in terms of growth. Today, we have that information for all schools with grades three through eight." Certified staff in those schools that reached exemplary growth will receive the first ABCs incentive money, bonuses approved by the General Assembly, for their achievement. Those bonuses, $1,000 per qualifying teacher and $500 per qualifying assistant, are expected to be distributed later this month. Schools that didn't meet growth and were also deemed low- performing by the State Board could have assistance teams assigned to help their staffs develop ways to improve student performance. In all, there are 12 assistance teams of five members each that will work with an expected 15-24 schools in the coming year.
Dr. Robinson noted, "Teachers have said for years, 'Let us be accountable for what we are able to do with a child in a year. Let us measure where students are and compare that to where they are a year later and show you how much progress the students have made.' The ABCs does exactly that, school by school."
State Supt. Dr. Mike Ward referred to the first year under The ABCs as a milestone in school reform. "We've maintained all along that we owe it to our young people to make sure they are getting the very best education possible, and we've just completed our first year under a General Assembly-supported plan that does that. We applaud every school that met or exceeded its goal and are more committed than ever to helping those that fell short."
Top schools around the state will receive special recognition as part of The ABCs program. There are three levels of recognition in the student growth area and two levels of recognition for student performance. For student growth, the 25 schools in the state showing the highest amount of student growth will be designated Top 25 and will be honored by a banquet, a banner to hang in the school, certificate of achievement and incentive bonus for all certified staff; all schools that meet 110% of their student growth standard will be deemed exemplary and will receive a certificate of achievement and certified employees will receive incentive bonuses; and all schools meeting 100% of the student growth standard will be deemed as having met expected growth and will receive a certificate.
For student performance, School of Excellence is the designation for those schools where at least 90% of the students tested performed at or above grade level and where the school met expected growth. These schools will be honored at a banquet, will receive a banner to hang in the school, and will receive a certificate of achievement. Schools where 80 to 89.9 percent of students performed at or above the grade level standard will be designated as Schools of Distinction, and they'll receive a certificate and a plaque.
Celebrations already planned include: