Schools Fail to Meet National Test Standards

Two Urbana schools failed to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) benchmarks, putting them on the “local attention” list for school improvement.

Urbana Elementary School (UES) and Urbana Middle School (UMS) both barely missed the mark when it came to the standards set by the AYP, a key aspect of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. To comply with the legislation, schools must achieve 100 percent proficiency standards by the year 2014 in all subgroups for reading and math and show measurable progress toward achieving that goal each year.

“I would not under any circumstance count them as failing schools,” said to Stephen Hess, Frederick County Public Schools director of research, development and accountability. “In both schools there is much to be proud of. I am confident these schools and our staff will put together a plan to work toward these goals.”

In the case of UES, that school had an overall 96.6 percent of its students designated at proficient in the MSA testing, the testing used to measure AYP progress. In math, 93 percent of the students tested proficient.

Where the school failed to meet the AYP benchmark was in the special education subgroup.

The legislations requires schools to break out subgroups within the school such as non-English speaking, white, special education, Hispanic and other markers.

Thirty-three special education students took the math test. Nineteen students scored proficient or better, which equates to 58 percent. The school missed meeting proficiency in this category by just four students, according to Hess.

At UMS, 43 of 60 special education test takers in reading were proficient. That was just one shy of the number of students needed to qualify for the AYP benchmark.

Being on the “local attention” list makes both schools eligible for some special assistance to meet the AYP goals. This listing served as an early warning to school and district staff.

Schools are listed under School Improvement status when they do not meet AYP for two consecutive years in the same contents area, either reading or math. Schools continuing not to meet AYP enter additional phases of School Improvement, which could lead to restructuring.

Ironically, UMS is ranked third in the county for all standardized testing comparing the 13 county middle schools, according to Ann Bonatitubus, secondary associate superintendent. In total, 94.3 percent of the students at UMS did meet AYP standards.

“That is phenomenal,” Bonatitubus said. “The hard part is that one subcategory not making it takes the entire school to not making AYP.”

Steve Lockard, associate superintendent for elementary schools, called AYP the “race that doesn’t end.” That is because each year the ATP measurable objectives increases making it harder each year for schools to meet the standards. Subgroups in Maryland can be as few as five students, making it increasingly difficult to keep all subgroups in a proficient status.

This year 32 of the 36 Frederick County elementary schools and four of 13 middle schools met the AYP.

Three of the four county schools previously on the state’s “school improvement” list met AYP for 2011. Liberty Elementary School and Thurmont Middle School are no longer listed on the “school improvement” category, having met AYP for the second consecutive year. West Frederick Middle School remains in “Corrective Action.” New Market Middle School did not meet AYP for the third consecutive year.

Crestwood Middle School and Hillcrest Elementary School did not meet AYP for the second consecutive year.

Hess said it is not unusual to have a school meet the AYP one year and be on the “local attention” list the next. It is not until a school is placed in the “school improvement” category that sanctions kick in.

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