IT WAS disappointing for the Barrow County School System that it again fell short of having all its schools make the AYP list this year. Both high schools, one middle school and one elementary school failed to achieve that goal this year.
I’m not a fan of AYP.
A creature of the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind law, AYP is the acronym for “Adequate Yearly Progress.”
In theory, AYP is supposed to measure how public schools are doing in reaching a goal of having 100 percent of all students functioning on grade level by 2014.
That’s crazy. It’s impossible for 100 percent of students to meet such a standard.
But AYP is the dogma that all public schools live by today. Not making AYP can have a variety of negative consequences for a school, so every school system is extremely focused on maintaining AYP.
What does that mean?
At the high school level, the school’s drop out rate along with its results on the Georgia High School Graduation Test in both Math and English/Language Arts are the key criteria. Neither Barrow high school passed those criteria this year.
But the criteria is a moving target. Each year, the bar gets set higher. This year, 75 percent of high school students were supposed to pass the GHSGT in Math and 87.7 percent were supposed to pass in ELA. Both of Barrow’s high schools fell short of those numbers.
In addition, not only are students overall supposed to pass at that rate, but also all the school’s “subgroups” are supposed to pass at that rate. Those subgroups include economically disadvantaged students and several varieties of minorities.
Thus, one subgroup made up of 40 students could throw an entire school off the AYP list. That’s not fair.
It gets even more complicated. This newspaper reported in May that both Barrow high schools had around 10 percent of their junior class fail the GHSGT the first time they took it. But on the AYP report, 27 percent failed at Winder Barrow High School while 33 percent failed at Apalachee High School.
How did that happen?
Because the federal government doesn’t accept Georgia’s GHSGT Math results and therefore scores that test differently than the state does. Under the federal rules, far more students failed Math on the test than failed based on the state’s weaker criteria.
All of that changes next year and it will likely lead to a much higher failure rate in Georgia. Fewer students could get diplomas under the tighter rules unless Math scores get better.
So a lot of AYP is game-playing by state and federal bureaucrats and is operating under goals that often seem to make little sense.
But for all its flaws, there is some good things to come out of AYP. Foremost is the fact that schools are now forced to confront their weaknesses in a transparent and public way. Although the education culture often tries to “spin” test results, that’s difficult do under AYP. The numbers are what they are.
For Barrow County, the numbers show that the system must do more work on bridging the achievement gap between minority students, especially black students, and the rest of the school’s population. At both high schools, for example, black students failed the GHSGT in Math at a rate of 50 percent. That’s unacceptable.
Still, AYP isn’t the total measure of a school. While the data it has can be useful, it’s not the complete picture of a school or a school system.
Mike Buffington is co-publisher of the Barrow Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well there is alot of things taught in school that must of us will never have any use for once we graduate. There are alot of students that want go to college. The is to much of a big deal on certain classes. Then there is students that are just there for football,track,baseball,basketball. They are the only ones that are going to want to pass with high grades. THe BOE to this day haven't figured that out. Because they are so over educated themselves. They also are so worried about building new schools. Why don't the combine the ones they have. Then take the ones they have that are older ones. Remove them from there places and rebuild new ones double their size from the start.
I agree with you. And it worries me that the schools are pressing these kids to just pass these tests, but are the kids really learning anything worthwhile? Are they retaining anything? Or - gasp - learning that learning can be fun?!