The year 2014 is looming.
It’s the date that every single school in every single district in every single state must meet proficiency in the subjects of reading and math. The states were given 11 years to make that happen — No Child Left Behind was passed into law in 2001 but did not take affect until 2003.
So how are we doing with progress — Adequate Yearly Progress, to be specific?
In West Virginia, not so great. Massive strides would have to be made in order to meet that 100 percent proficiency by 2014.
Consider the number of individual schools in West Virginia that made AYP over the past four testing years:
2008-09 — 73 percent.
2009-10 — 81 percent.
2010-11 — 48 percent.
2011-12 — 57 percent.
The results are very mixed, and it’s no wonder that West Virginia is one of the struggling states that has filed for a waiver from the federal government for flexibility when it comes to this 100 percent goal in 2014.
“The waiver will provide West Virginia with the flexibility needed as it continues to implement the Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives, expand the Teacher Evaluation Pilot and establish a high-quality accountability system that values individual student academic growth and supports schools,” the West Virginia Department of Education explains on its website.
“We spent a lot of time working with our state Board of Education, teachers, parents and other education experts to determine if filing for the Flexibility Waiver to NCLB was the right thing to do for students,” state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple continues.
“Without a waiver, West Virginia would be forced to continue to identify schools with inappropriate measures and labels. What we value in our education system is personalized learning. In other words, learning that engages students whether it’s the arts, world languages or career technical education, just to name a few. We also value student academic growth.”
And that’s one of the many things that critics of NCLB have said is hampering students — leaving out other elements of education like art, music and history, while schools “teach to the test” in the subjects measured — reading, math, science and social studies.
Even when schools make advancements in proficiency scores, if it’s not enough, the school walks away with a label for that year. If you get that “label” enough, it’s bad news:
• Missing AYP for two consecutive years requires the school to develop a two-year improvement plan, and students are given the option to transfer to a better school.
• Missing AYP for three consecutive years means the school must offer free tutoring and other extra education services.
• Missing AYP for four consecutive years could mean the complete replacement of staff, new curriculum or increase the amount of time a student spends in class.
• Missing AYP for five consecutive years essentially creates a plan that restructures the entire school, which goes into effect if the sixth year isn’t met. That could mean closing the school or making it a charter school, or even turning it over to the state to run.
So that flexibility could help in the long run, to help students achieve set goals and avoid “punishing” schools and school districts, the state hopes.
But our voters aren’t buying that, and they do not support that idea.
Last week on our online poll question, which can be found each week at www.timeswv.com, we asked “With only 57 percent of state public schools making AYP based on WESTEST scores last school year, what path can West Virginia take to improve proficiency for students?”
And here’s what our voters said:
More funds for special education and specialized teachers — 4.76 percent.
Flexibility for stringent No Child Left Behind laws — 20.63 percent.
Resolving issues that came up in audit of state school system — 25.4 percent.
Stay the course and increase school and teacher accountability — 49.21 percent.
So, about half of our voters think we need to focus accountability instead of flexibility, teachers and principals instead of students.
This week, let’s move away from education and hit the political trail.
How do you feel now about your candidate and your party following the Republican and Democratic national conventions?
Log on. Vote. Email me or respond directly online.
The year 2014 is looming.
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