BENNINGTON -- A teachers strike that prohibited students in many area schools from completing standardized tests last fall kept those schools dormant in Adequate Yearly Progress determinations.
Of the nine schools in Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, just three administered the entire New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) exam last fall, which along with the Vermont Alternate Assessment Portfolio determines if a school meets AYP.
Of the three schools that did complete the entire test taken statewide by children in Grades 3 through 8, and Grade 11, Woodford Elementary is the only SVSU school that continued to meet AYP. Mount Anthony Union Middle School did not meet AYP for an 11th straight year, and Monument Elementary entered year one of "school improvement status" after failing to meet AYP for a second consecutive year.
The other schools -- MAU High School, Bennington Elementary, Molly Stark Elementary, Pownal Elementary, Shaftsbury Elementary and North Bennington Graded School -- stayed at the same AYP determination as 2011. Of those schools, only NBGS is meeting AYP.
Statewide, 215 schools (73 percent) did not meet AYP this year. A school makes AYP by meeting targets set by the state as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In Vermont, the targets increase every three years with the expectation 100 percent of students will be proficient by 2014.
The final AYP target increase prior to 100 percent proficiency came last year. As a result, 118 schools failed to meet AYP for the first time last summer. This year, another 23 schools did not meet AYP for a first time, including Stamford Elementary in Bennington County.
A school that does not make AYP a second consecutive year enters "school improvement." In a school’s second year not meeting AYP it is required to take specific actions such as increased student monitoring, additional staff development and making free supplemental services available to students. Staff from the Department of Education also help schools come up with a plan to ensure educational programs provide what is needed for students to meet rigorous academic standards.
Because the NECAP exams were not completed in many SVSU schools, Curriculum Director Kathi Marcoux said many positive improvements made in the schools in recent years could not be analyzed through the data. While AYP paints a picture of many Vermont schools "failing," Marcoux said the results are just one way to grade what schools are doing.
"This is one way to measure success in a school ... there are places where there have been improvements that would be considered statically significant, but they don’t come out in AYP," Marcoux said.
Looking at other factors, Marcoux said it "appears in many ways we are heading in the right direction."
Elsewhere in the county, Arlington Memorial Middle and High School as well as Fisher Elementary in Arlington did not meet AYP for the second time, putting both schools in year one of school improvement. Also entering the first year of school improvement is Manchester Elementary/Middle School and Readsboro Elementary.
"Vermont has maintained high standards and a rigorous assessment of those standards. It is not surprising that as we get closer to the 2014 NCLB expectation of 100 percent proficiency, we will continue to see more schools not meeting AYP." Commissioner Armando Vilaseca said in a statement. "Vermont will revise its accountability system when the reauthorization of the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) provides us with that opportunity. Our plan has always been to design a system that does not stress a single measure using a standardized test to determine our students’, our schools’, or our state’s success in meeting standards."
Vermont continues the transition to the Common Core State Standards in math and literacy and to the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. Officials believe this system will provide multiple, and more authentic, measures of student achievement to construct an accountability system.
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