EARLIER: Simpsonville Elementary fails NCLB growth model

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Improvement steps mean students could transfer

By Todd Martin

After reading reports of increased scores and improvement across the board for the district in the Kentucky Core Content Tests, parents of students at Simpsonville Elementary School may have been surprised this week by what they read in a letter they received from the school.

By only meeting nine of 10 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals this year and hitting only 10 of 12 in 2010, Simpsonville missed meeting the federal government's No Child Left Behind AYP goals two years in row, which means the school falls into the School Improvement Plan, Year 1 category.

Simpsonville was the only school in Shelby County that did not hit 100 percent of its AYP goals in 2010.

The letter that parents received Tuesday outlined those shortfalls and offered students the opportunity to transfer - at school district expense - to either Painted Stone or Wright elementaries, the only two schools in the district that did attain 100 percent of their goals this year.

The Year 1 plan also requires that a school improvement plan be revised and that 10 percent of the school's Title 1 money be reserved for professional development for teachers.

No Child Left Behind's pass/fail model is one that several states currently are fighting, and President Barack Obama is listening. Waivers to opt out of NCLB could be applied to states using a growth model educational evaluation system as early as next year.

And Simpsonville seems to be a perfect example of showing growth but not meeting the precise goals in each category.

AYP measures reading and math scores based off of the proficient and higher KCCT scores in Kentucky.

The overall percentage of students scoring proficient and distinguished in reading at Simpsonville has increased from 73.93 in 2009 to 74.11 in 2010 to 75.34, and in math it has increased from 75.71 in 2009 to 75.89 in 2010 to 80.07 in 2011.


1 subgroup the problem

AYP goals, however, are made up of smaller subgroups within the total student population.

Because Simpsonville this year missed on one of those subgroups - the one that measures students who participate in free and reduced lunch programs (a deficient group could be different each year) - the school fell into the year 1 improvement category.

However, Simpsonville's overall Academic Index improved, making it one of just two schools (along with Painted Stone) to break 100 percent overall.

The letter, written by Principal Jill Tingle,  invites parents to a meeting on Tuesday and includes a transfer slip that must be submitted by Thursday.

The meeting will give school officials and Simpsonville administrators the chance to explain these results and the positive things going on at Simpsonville, said Lisa Smith the deputy superintendent and chief academic officer for the district.

"We'll explain the requirements of No Child Left Behind and make sure people understand that it's a yes-or-no option," she said. "But we also want to highlight the requirements and the great things that Simpsonville is doing and the growth we're seeing there."

Added Cindy French, the district's director of secondary schools: "No Child Left Behind requires a seven percent jump, and although we are seeing growth, and can monitor that at Simpsonville and all the schools through digital data boards, we had growth of only three percent in that category."

Said Smith: "The problem is it's a moving target."

Simpsonville is the first school in Shelby County to fall into the School Improvement Plan, Year 1 category so the potential impact is an unknown at this point.

"We're not sure what [the potential cost of transfers] could be because we haven't dealt with this before," Smith said. "We will have to set aside Title 1 funds to provide that transportation."

According to NCLB guidelines if a student does want to transfer to a school that met the goals, the transportation would have to be covered by the district.


District also missed

Simpsonville parents weren't the only ones to receive a letter, because the district as a whole failed to meet AYP for the fifth consecutive year, meeting just 11 of 19 goals this year. A letter was sent to parents of all students in the district.

The district outlined its procedure to move forward with meeting goals, including revising the district improvement plan, setting funding aside for professional development and working with assistant provided from the Kentucky Department of Education.

Smith said the district would provide AIMSweb tools for teachers this year, a way to take a quick snapshot of a student's ability in a subject or specific skill.

"We'll also continue to invest in Thinking Strategies for our teachers, and we'll continue to work in instructional norms across the district," she said.

However, the district also used this opportunity to outline ways that parents can help and get more involved in their child's education.

The letter encourages parents to talk to teachers and learn their child's test scores to help plan free learning activities through the district's Web site; reminds them to encourage and support good studying habits and volunteer at schools and in student's classrooms; and helps parents know the district staff is always looking for volunteers to help with the district and school improvement plans.

Many of these ideas are also stressed on the letter to Simpsonville's parents.