The state Board of Education today released Connecticut’s national Adequate Yearly Progress reports, which sets a minimum level of student performance for math and reading.
In Middletown, eight schools did not make AYP.
That is because, say Associate Superintendent of Schools Barbara Senges and Superintendent of Schools Michael Frechette, AYP targets moved from 82 percent proficiency in 2010-11 to 91 percent by 2011-12. Reaching that goal in one year, they say is impossible.
“Every three years, the targets change and they get higher,” Senges says. “You don’t change achievement in one year.”
Out of 274 schools statewide, in Middletown, Bielefield, Farm Hill, Macdonough, Lawrence elementaries and Keigwin Middle School, Woodrow Wilson Middle School and Middletown High School didn’t meet AYP for math and reading.
Out of 89 schools statewide, Snow School did not meet AYP for reading.
“The spirit of the law is good — that we should work really, really hard to make every kid achieve at the high possible level,” Senges said. “So do we want every kid to be at proficient? Absolutely. Realistically, can every kid be at proficient? No. The law, however, says that 100 percent must be at proficient by 2014.”
This year, Middletown offered school choice to parents of incoming kindergarteners at Farm Hill and Bielefield schools.
“We needed seven kindergartners from Bielefield and 10 from Farm Hill,” Senges said, to go to Wesley School (which made AYP). Only 17 slots were open due to class size and the inability to hire more teachers — some of whom were moved to other elementaries.
The No Child Left Behind Act was passed by Congress in 2001. Statewide, the report found, students are generally performing slightly better than last year, however, more schools and districts are now failing to meet the federal NCLB standards.
Frechette says the state Board of Education Chairman Allen B. Taylor is seeking a waiver to NCLB requirements.
“Eighty percent of schools in the district, in the country, are on the list. That’s this school year because [AYP targets] have gone from 82 to 91 in one year.”
“So now there a lot of elected officials around the state and around the country that are on this list for the first time saying, ‘wait a minute, and in an other couple years, 100 percent — that doesn’t make sense.’”
Soon, Frechette says, “everyone’s going to be on the list.”
“Members of the state board are saying how ludicrous [NCLB requirements are]. Some states are opting out, saying, ‘we aren’t playing your game. It’s absurd.”
Something called a statistical adjustment — or confidence interval — is applied to schools like Middletown’s because, Senges says, it “allows for the demographic.”
“Seventy-two percent in Middletown is not same as 72 percent in Avon because there’s an actual score and the AYP calculation.”
She explains it this way, “the better student you are, the smaller your confidence interval.” So to compare schools within a state and even within a district, Senges says, “you’re really comparing apples to oranges to lemons to grapes to blueberries.”
Senges says states can opt out of the NCLB requirements — but some will lose millions in federal assistance.
“This is all tied into Title 1 funds. It’s money and urban districts in part get large amounts from Title 1 and need it to supplement their budgets from local towns.
Here, we get millions. Title 1 totally based on poverty level. It’s the number of kids who receive free and reduced lunch stipends, so it’s all based on income. We’re in between 40 and 45 percent and that’s a growing number.”
Five years ago, when Senges came to the district, students receiving the stipend numbered in the low 30 percent.
And, Senges said, “Our poverty level in Middletown has gone up more than the state average.”
About 53 percent of Connecticut’s schools met this year’s performance standards under NCLB. Although more schools failed to meet the standards, this difference is due in part to the increase in the federal requirement of NCLB for 2011, where nine in 10 students are required to be proficient in mathematics and reading. The results are based on student performance on the 2011 CMTs and CAPTs. More than 290,000 students participated.
A school 'In Need of Improvement' is removed from that status after making AYP for two years in a row.
Statewide, 34 elementary and middle schools and two high schools removed from In Need of Improvement, including Spencer School.