Aug. 6, 2012. Eight schools in the Watauga County Schools system met North Carolina’s standards for expected academic growth by students and six schools also met the more stringent standard for high growth based on state test results for the 2011-12 school year.
The six schools achieving high growth were Bethel, Blowing Rock, Green Valley, Hardin Park, Valle Crucis, and Watauga High School. The schools achieving expected growth were Cove Creek and Parkway. Although its students met all federal performance targets for academic proficiency, Mabel fell short of expected growth by the narrowest of margins for 2011-12.
In elementary and middle schools, academic growth is measured by the results of standardized multiple choice tests in reading and mathematics for grades three through eight. For high schools, growth is measured through comparing end-of-course test results in three academic subjects – English I, Biology, and Algebra I – with the results of previous assessments in related areas.
Statewide, 43.9 percent of the state’s public schools met the high growth standard and another 35.6 percent achieved expected growth. In the Watauga County Schools, 67 percent of schools met high growth and 22 percent met expected growth.
In addition to measuring academic growth, the state’s standardized tests are also used to assess student proficiency. Test results are considered proficient if they indicate that a student’s grasp of a subject meets or exceeds the expectations for students who have completed a given grade level or a specific course.
Test results for grades three through eight indicated that 90.2 percent of Watauga County Schools (WCS) students met or exceeded expected proficiency in mathematics and 82.5 percent met or exceeded expectations in reading. In science, 83.2 percent of fifth grade scores and 85.6 percent of eighth grade scores for WCS students met or exceeded state proficiency standards.
The combined proficiency rates in reading, math, science, and in any EOC tests taken by students in grades 3-8 determine the “performance composite” score of elementary and middle schools under the state’s “ABCs” school accountability system. The performance composite score and academic growth results are used to assign each school an ABCs recognition status.
Five schools in the WCS system – Green Valley, Hardin Park, Parkway, Valle Crucis, and Watauga High School – were awarded “School of Distinction” status, the second highest status category in the state’s ABCs system. Blowing Rock School was rated an Honor School of Excellence, the highest possible rating. Bethel and Cove Creek were rated as Schools of Progress and Mabel achieved no recognition. Statewide, 35 percent of schools were in the School of Progress category, 28 percent of schools achieved School of Distinction status, and 12 percent attained a School of Excellence rating.
In elementary and middle schools, a School of Progress is one where 60-79 percent of test results met or exceeded proficiency and where academic growth met or exceeded state standards. A School of Distinction is one where between 80 and 89 percent of test results are at or above grade level proficiency and where academic growth has met or exceeded state standards. A School of Excellence is one where 90 percent or more of test results are at or above proficiency and academic growth has met or exceeded state standards.
In high schools, End of Course (EOC) test results, the graduation rate, and other measures are used to assess school performance. At Watauga High School, 86.4 percent of all EOC results for the three tested subjects (English I, Algebra I, and Biology) met or exceeded proficiency. The four year graduation rate at Watauga High School was 85.1 percent in 2011-12, bettering the statewide graduation rate of 80.2 percent by nearly five percent.
In addition to measuring student proficiency and academic growth, state test results also determine whether schools meet the “Annual Measurable Objectives” (AMO) established to meet federal performance targets for public schools. The AMO standards replace the “Adequate Yearly Performance” (AYP) targets that were part of the federal No Child Left Behind law. North Carolina and 25 other states have received waivers from the No Child Left Behind Law in the past year as part of an agreement to undertake a range of school reform measures. The AMO performance targets specify the percentage of students that must meet proficiency standards for reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and for English I and Algebra I in high schools.
While the AMO standards retain targets for certain subgroups of students and for each school as a whole, the targets are no longer identical across all subgroups. This allows schools to meet the targets by demonstrating an acceptable level of progress toward meeting the AMO target for subgroups not currently achieving that standard. Subgroups can include lower income students, racial subgroups, students speaking English as a second language, and students with disabilities, among others.
Four of nine schools (44 percent) in the WCS system met all of their AMO targets compared to 46 percent of schools statewide. The schools meeting all of the standards were Blowing Rock, Mabel, Parkway, and Valle Crucis. The school system as a whole met 44 of 45 (97.8 percent) of AMO targets.
The ABCs and AMO results were released by the State Board of Education Thursday as part of their annual report of test results for students in grades 3-12 statewide. The results for 2011-12 are the last ones that will be issued under the NC ABCs school accountability system that was first implemented in 1996-97. The ABCs system is being succeeded by the new READY model that takes effect in the 2012-13 school year.
READY, which is not an acronym, includes the new Common Core and Essential Standards curriculum, revised testing content that will reflect the changes in the curriculum, changes to the evaluation system for teachers and principals, and other components. The school status designations of the ABCs system (such as School of Excellence and School of Distinction) will not be used in the READY model. However, under new legislation approved by the NC General Assembly this year, each school will be assigned a letter grade reflecting the proficiency test results for students at that school. These letter grades will use the A-F scale used on most student report cards.
Tables summarizing 2011-12 test results for the Watauga County Schools will be available soon on the news and data page of the school system website at www.watauga.k12.nc.us. The results for all public schools and school systems statewide are available at abcs.ncpublicschools.org/abcs.