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Schools learn about new federal grading

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These replace NCLB and AYP as measures

By Todd Martin

The Shelby County Board of Education heard a brief report on the changes the state will see after the No Child Left Behind waiver was accepted by the federal government.

During Thursday’s meeting at Southside Elementary, SCPS Superintendent James Neihof told the board that the first year will set a base for the each school and district in the state, and from there goals (Annual Measurable Objectives, or AMO) will be set.

Schools and districts will fall into categories including Distinguished (scoring in the 90th percentile or higher), Proficient (the 70th percentile or higher), Needs Improvement (below the 70th percentile) and Progressing (parameters still being defined). That last group would eliminate the Adequate Yearly Progress designation.

Schools will be judged on scales of 0 to 100, instead of 140 like the old standards.

“Achievement gaps are still a major focus,” Neihof said. “The plan calls for a separate AMO for each individual gap group. The AMO will require schools to close the gap between the individual group’s starting proficiency level and the score of 100 by 50 percent in five years.”

The new data will be released for the first time in late summer or early fall, after students take end-of-course exams this year.

“For the 2011-12 school year, schools and districts will be gauged on test scores, achievement gap reduction, student academic growth, college and career readiness percentages and graduation rates,” he said. “Each school will have an AMO in all of these areas.”

Schools and districts will receive recognition and support for reaching goals, such as Kentucky Schools or Districts of Distinction, which will be comprised of the elementary, middle and high schools scoring in the 95th percentile or higher.

Although it’s unsure what that support or recognition would be, board member Sam Hinkle suggested the district try to find their own ways to reward schools, prompting them to work harder to achieve these goals.

“Do we have the ability to tell our schools that if they earn one of the highest distinctions in the state, they can go to school one less day?” he asked.

After confirmation that it would be possible, Hinkle asked Neihof if he would investigate other rewards for schools.

“That’s better than any pat on the back [from the state],” board member Alan Phillips added.