0
Votes

Schools Make Modest Progress on Federal Tests

Ten Arlington schools still fail to meet goals under federal No Child Left

The Arlington school system showed improvement last year on the Standards of

Learning tests and exceeded its goal under the federal No Child Left Behind law,

but a third of the county’s schools still failed to meet all their targets.

Ten of Arlington’s 30 schools did not make "Adequate Yearly Progress" in either

math or reading in at least one category. All four of the elementary schools

that failed to achieve AYP missed their targets in only one or two demographic

groups.

"The results show we are making progress in pass rates for Standards of Learning

tests," said School Board member Ed Fendley. "But it also shows we have some

work to do."

School Board member Dave Foster said he was pleased by the modest gains shown

this year, cautioned that the school system still has far to go before it meets

parents’ expectations.

"We’re moving in the right direction, but not as quickly as we’d like or

uniformly," Foster said.

Elementary schools made the greatest strides, with four schools — Abingdon,

Barcroft, Claremont and Hoffman-Boston — not meeting all of their goals, down

from seven the previous year. Only two schools did not pass every reading

category, compared to seven in the 2004-2005 year.

After Arlington students experienced greater difficulty with the reading exams

last year, school officials asked teachers to spend more time in the classroom

developing reading skills.

"People were paying attention to the results last year," Superintendent Robert

Smith said. "Schools made adjustments, and I think it made an impact."

The standards for achieving AYP last year were more stringent than in the past:

69 percent of students from each demographic group had to pass the reading exam,

up from 65 percent last year, and 67 percent of students in each group had to

pass the mathematics exam, up from 63 percent in 2004-2005. Students in grades

four, six and seven were tested for the first time, joining their counterparts

in grades three, five and eight.

SCHOOL OFFICIALS cautioned that the results were preliminary and could change as

final numbers come in later this fall.

All five Arlington middle schools failed to meet their objectives under the No

Child Left Behind law, with one school missing in eight different categories.

The main reason for the "disappointing" results, Smith said, was the performance

of sixth- and seventh-graders, classes that had never been tested before. Since

it was a new test, Smith believes the passing level for the two grades may have

been set too high.

Scores for subgroups are only counted if more than 50 students in the category

take the test. As a result of the influx of new test takers, Arlington middle

schools failed for the first time in a variety of subgroups including students

with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency.

The most important factor in helping more Arlington schools make AYP this school

year is identifying the areas where individual students require the greatest

amount of support and tailoring the curriculum to meet those needs, school

officials said.

The school system runs data analysis of every student’s test scores and provides

that information to teachers. It is imperative that teachers then implement that

knowledge in the classroom by paying extra attention to students who struggle,

school officials said.

"We are going to work with kids who are experiencing difficulty, and try to make

sure he or she does better," Smith said.

School officials also cautioned parents not to read too much into a single test.

Administrators have expressed frustration at the federal requirement’s sliding

targets, because they can often obscure the school system’s progress.

If a school improves by 8 percent in a category but still misses its target

under AYP, it is branded a failure when in fact it is a success story, school

officials said.

"You can’t look at these results in isolation," Fendley said. "They are

important indicators, but only one measure of how are kids and schools are

doing."