by nathan oster
The Wyoming Department of Education on Tuesday released Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) information, as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and a Greybull school — but not the one you think — was among those that made the list.
Supt. Barry Bryant had hinted this summer after the release of the Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students (PAWS) data that the high school might land on the dreaded AYP list due to a one-year blip in its graduation rate.
But when the district got the final AYP determinations from the state — which was well in advance of Tuesday’s statewide release — the high school was in the clear, but the elementary school, which school officials believed was safe, was listed as needing improvement.
The reason for the confusion, Bryant said, is the state’s adjustment of AYP goals.
“A lot of the targets got adjusted, and where we thought we were hurting we ended up being good and where we thought we were good we ended up hurting,” Bryant told the Big Horn County School District No. 3 board of trustees on Sept. 11.
Greybull Elementary did not make AYP because one of the school’s subgroups, those on free and reduced lunches, did not make AYP in the area of language arts. From last year to this year, the target rose 9 percent — from 76 percent proficient or advanced to 85 percent proficient or advanced.
Greybull Elementary School didn’t make the 85-percent threshold, but it wasn’t alone in failing to match the new targets. Every school district in Big Horn County had at least one school that joined GES on the AYP list this year.
The U.S. Department of Education required the state to recalculate its AYP targets in response to the Wyoming Legislature’s decision to remove writing from the 2011-12 PAWS testing.
Sara Schlattmann, the district’s curriculum coordinator, told the board that the AYP finding puts the district “in a warning year only.” If the school this year fails to make AYP again in language arts, it would end up in year one of school improvement, she said.
“Basically it just says we’re on the radar,” she said. “We know of lots of things we have to do to do our best to keep getting kids over the bar. This year doesn’t get us into any kind of penalty. … We’re basically just in a warning year, and we’re going to do everything we can to reverse that.”
Under NCLB, all states are required to make AYP determinations every year for every public school district and school in the state. Schools and districts are required to continually improve their students’ achievement in reading or language arts and mathematics from year to year to match a federal mandate that all students are achieving at or above grade level by 2014.
Schlattmann said testing data shows that the district’s students are making progress as they move through the system, that teachers are doing good work and know the areas in which they need to improve.
GES Principal Brenda Jinks provided more information about her students’ performance on the PAWS. In 2011-12, 97 students in grades three through five were tested. Of those 97, 18 belonged to a subgroup, and within that subgroup were other subgroups, including those in the free and reduced lunch category.
“Within these,” Jinks said, “We have a large number of students who are in the free and reduced lunch population. What we want to do is, say to ourselves, how do all of our students do on the test?”
Kinks said that in reading, 83 percent of third graders tested at proficient or advanced. Within the free and reduced lunch population, 75 percent hit proficient or advanced.
Among fourth graders, 70 percent of all students and 62 percent of those on free and reduced lunches achieved either proficient or advanced status.
In the fifth grade, 81 percent of all students but just 57 percent of those on free and reduced lunches achieved either proficient or advanced grades.
“We know that it’s this group that we have to work on,” said Jinks.
In math, the results for Greybull students were better. Ninety-six percent of all third graders 73 percent of fourth graders and 76 percent of fifth graders were proficient or advanced in math. The percentage to make those standards in the free and reduced lunch subgroup lagged behind in all three of the grade levels, said Jinks.
Jinks emphasized that her teachers have done tremendous work and that her student have made significant growth. Four years ago, the school’s reading scores ranked in the sixth percentile among all Wyoming school districts; last year the school was in the 89th percentile.
Because they avoided the AYP list, far less was said during the meeting about the high school and middle school.
GMS Principal Scott McBride said there has been “huge growth” at the middle school over the past few years. He cited the work of this year’s freshmen, who were tested as sixth, seventh and eighth graders. According to McBride, they made incredible gains in math.
GHS Principal Ty Flock said his school is shifting its focus from the PAWS to the ACT, which will be used in future years to make determination on AYP. Flock said GHS scores have been stable in recent years — not a lot of spikes, not a lot of drops.
“Scores have been good, but obviously, we’d like to see them spiking a little more,” he said.
Flock said it will be interesting to see where the ACT benchmark gets set in the process.
Greybull’s composite score on the ACT has historically been in the range from 19 to 21, which is typically a little higher than the state but a little behind the nation, said Flock.