NEW FEDERAL TARGETS TOUGH TO MEET
Many North Carolina schools will find it difficult to meet new federal targets-targets so tough that even some of the highest-performing schools will not reach them. Local districts are releasing the preliminary results for their schools today. These numbers tell just part of the story about a school though, and state education leaders urge parents and communities to take a closer look at their local schools.
Overall, North Carolina's schools are making more progress than most states across the nation. Recent national results show North Carolina's fourth and eighth graders above the national and Southeast averages on reading and writing assessments. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as The Nation's Report Card, provides the only valid national comparison of student performance. Participation is required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
This same Act requires schools to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) with groups of students to meet target goals or be labeled "needs improvement." Many North Carolina schools are expected to miss at least one of the more than potentially 41 targets that must be reached. The number of targets varies by school depending on the groups of students in the school.
State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee urged caution in looking at the federal report. "All of us need some improvement and so do our schools. The "all or nothing" nature of this federal model will be very tough for many of our schools, particularly schools that serve a more diverse student population. A school may be doing a very good job as a whole but miss the mark for all but a few students. I hope parents will look at the NAEP report and the ABCs school by school results in September to gain a more complete view of their schools."
The ABCs of Public Education, North Carolina's highly touted accountability plan, measures school performance on the basis of the overall performance of students and on growth. The federal Adequate Yearly Progress plan strictly looks at student groups and the school as a whole meeting set targets.
State Superintendent Mike Ward said it's important that students who already have achieved proficiency (Level III and IV) on state tests continue to make improvement. "We expect schools to help all students reach higher levels of achievement. It's not enough for students to reach minimum levels of proficiency. That is why we in North Carolina are committed to keeping our standards high. North Carolina will use AYP as a tool to make improvements for all students, not as an excuse to lower standards. High performing students and schools must be challenged to achieve even more. We also must close achievement gaps between groups of students. That's why the State Board of Education decided to incorporate the federal AYP component into the ABCs as our gap-closing measure."
The State Board will approve ABCs results, including AYP information, in September. An extensive process of validating data for every student must take place before the preliminary results that are being released today by local school districts are confirmed.
Comparing schools based on the AYP information is discouraged. Each school has varying numbers of target goals, depending on how many groups of students it has, that must be reached to make AYP.
North Carolina has taken a proactive approach to implementing the No Child Left Behind Act. State officials say the goals of the Act are worthy. The Act sets a goal of all students proficient in reading and math by 2013-14. It seeks to close achievement gaps between groups of students that have been so persistent throughout our nation's history. It requires highly qualified teachers and reporting to parents.
Each state sets its target goals to measure whether schools and districts are making AYP. Some states are reported to be lowering standards. North Carolina is keeping its standards high, even though many schools will have a difficult time reaching them. Although this is the first year for public reporting of AYP, it is not new for Title I schools. Before No Child Left Behind, each state defined AYP. That's why some Title I schools will have sanctions this year.
A Title I school is a school that receives Title I federal funds, the largest single allocation of federal funding for education. About half of North Carolina’s regular and charter public schools are Title I schools and all school districts receive Title I money. North Carolina got $170 million in "basic" Title I programs in 2001-02 and $208 million in 2002-03, an increase of about $38 million. Recognizing that children from lower-income families face greater academic challenges at school, federal funding is provided to schools with higher percentages of students from low-income families. The administration and staff at Title I schools use this extra federal funding to develop additional instructional programs that support student achievement.
It takes two consecutive years of not making AYP for a school to enter Title I School Improvement status. No consequences apply to a school that misses AYP for one year. Non-Title I schools that do not make AYP must revise their School Improvement Plans but no other sanctions apply.
If a Title I school fails to make AYP for two consecutive years, the school enters Title I School Improvement Year One. Parents must be notified that they can transfer their child to another school. Some 40 North Carolina schools likely will have to offer these transfers for the coming school year. Sanctions get progressively more severe and can result in replacing staff or turning over the school to the state.
Local school districts also will be designated as making or not making AYP. These designations will be confirmed in the ABCs report by the State Board.
Reporting achievement by student group will be eye-opening for many people. North Carolina plans to use the federal results as a constructive tool to continue to improve student achievement.
For more specific information on No Child Left Behind, check the Web at www.ncpublicschools.org/nclb
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.