Friday, September 07, 2007

Barrett Makes "Adequate Yearly Progress"

If you have not heard the good news about K.W. Barrett elementary school: it passed the Virginia Standards of Learning exams, and thereby made Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal “No Child Left Behind” law. This is the third year in a row for the school.

“I have to say I was really pleased,” Principal Theresa “Terry” Bratt said during a telephone interview. “The school system tells me we’ve done really well.”

She said, however, that she still has the same sort of trepidation as she did in May when the students took the tests. In May 2005 and 2006, English as a Second Language students took the Stanford English Language Proficiency Test to test their reading ability. Last year, the Department of Education determined the Stanford test was not similar enough to the commonwealth’s SOL reading test that all the other students took. Virginia's test has content about the state that the Standford test lacked.

Therefore, schools were forced to use the grade-level reading test for all children who had lived in the United States for at least a year.

"I would never say we're out of the woods as far as giving a grade level test to children who speak English as a second language,” she said. She said she expects ESL fifth-graders who have been at Barrett since Kindergarten to do well on the exams, but newly arrived children will always have troubles.

Understanding the results of the testing is actually quite complicated as schools must reach target passing rates in as many as 29 different subsets of students (students grouped as English as a Second Language speakers, or by different races, or by different income levels at home, for example).

The target passing rate was 73 percent in reading and 71 percent in Math. Barrett met all 17 targets in its different subsets. However, low income students at Campbell Elementary missed the reading assessment (one of Campbell’s 11 targets) and the school failed to make AYP. The targets will rise to 77 and 75 percent for reading and math next May.

Mrs. Bratt said the reading scores in one subset in one grade missed the reading target, but a three-year average was applied, so the target was reached. It gets complicated, and the official report and double-checked numbers have not yet come down from the state.

Students in schools that do not make AYP can be bused for free to other schools; however, once the failing school makes AYP, the students no longer can rely on free bus service, which can be disruptive.

In other good news for the school, Mrs. Bratt reported, "We were projected to have 405 children, and I believe we have 440 children." She likes being so popular among the county’s school choices. Barrett is part of a pod of eight schools. Parents inside the boundaries of any of those schools can choose to send their children to Barrett.

But do they have room for all the unexpected kids? "We're making room," Mrs. Bratt said. "Teachers are always flexible."


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