BY KRISTI REED
Days after learning that the Barrow County School system failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) as defined by the state, board of education members expressed their frustration with the disappointing results.
“I really thought we were doing the things we needed to do to get ahead of the curve,” said Dist. 5 representative Lynn Stevens. “Maybe we’re not setting the bar high enough, but this is flat disappointing.”
“I don’t know what the answer is, but I sure have a lot of questions,” she said.
In results released last Friday by the state Department of Education, eight out of 14 Barrow County Schools were identified as failing to meet AYP standards.
Assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Claire Miller reviewed the results with the board of education Tuesday night. Miller said she and other school administrators met in a two day retreat last week in an attempt to identify the problems that caused the school system to lose ground this year.
One of the biggest areas of concern is math instruction. Miller said the transition to the new math curriculum has resulted in a pronounced decrease in standardized test scores, a primary component of overall AYP results. Barrow County students in grades 3 through 8 failed to meet state standards on the math portion of the criterion referenced competency tests (CRCT) this past school year.
In 2005, Barrow County students scored above the state average in mathematics assessments. After the new math curriculum was implemented, Barrow scores fell almost 19 percent compared to a drop of 12 percent statewide.
In an effort to improve student performance on the CRCT retest offered at the end of the year, the Barrow County School system held a five-day math “boot camp” during the last week of school. The week of intensive math instruction helped the system’s passing rate increase from 54 percent to 78 percent. Of the 366 students who participated in the remedial instruction, 55 percent passed the math CRCT on the second attempt.
Miller said the results of the remedial instruction indicated that test scores are “sensitive to instruction.”
While the overall results of the AYP report were dismal, Miller said there were some bright spots. Barrow County Schools met AYP attendance goals, both high schools exceeded the standard graduation rate, no schools were placed on the needs improvement list and three schools (Kennedy and Auburn Elementary Schools and Westside Middle School) received a distinguished rating for four or more years of meeting AYP standards.
Miller said the school system will work to address deficiencies through the Comprehensive System Improvement Plan (CSIP) that goes before the board at its August 5 meeting.
The CSIP is annually approved by the Barrow County Board of Education. Principals and assistant principals then use the CSIP to develop their School Improvement Plans (SIP) with input from faculty and staff.
The plan is updated each year with new goals and data developed through input from teachers, students, administrators, Board members, parents, and community stakeholders.
Miller said the school system will use the CSIP to identify ways to improve student performance.
“There is not a magic, silver bullet out there,” she said. “The bottom line is some of the things we’re doing now are not working. We’re going to look at how we can do things differently. We have to see what works and what gets kids excited about learning.”
School superintendent Dr. Ron Saunders said school administrators needed to reach beyond school walls to encourage parent and community involvement.
“I’m taking it personally,” he said. “It’s going to be my number one goal to see these scores improve.”
In other business, the board approved the expenditure of $72,325 to install tinted window film at eleven Barrow County School facilities. The installation became necessary after the fire marshal required blinds be removed from all windows used as emergency exits. The resulting glare from the sunlight prompted school officials to seek alternative methods for providing a comfortable learning environment. The film will cost $3.50 per square foot.
The board’s next meeting will be Tuesday, August 5. The Board of Education meets at 179 West Athens Street in Winder.