Despite having been cleared, Blair prepares for year's coming state tests
Blair met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements for the second year in a row for the 2009-2010 school year, which has led to the removal of Blair from Year Two School Improvement status, according to Principal Darryl Williams.
AYP is a nationwide measure of the competency of a school's students, which in Maryland is based on the Algebra and English 10 High School Assessments (HSAs) and graduation rate, Williams said. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) creates goals called Annual Measurement Objectives (AMOs) for each subgroup of students, he said. The subgroups include racial categories, Limited English Proficiency (LEP), Special Education and Free and Reduced Meal (FARM) students. NCLB determines the AMO annually in each category. "Each year, the state has goals, kind of like a benchmark," Williams said.
This year's AMOs required that 65.8 percent of students attain proficient level or above on the English HSA and 56.1 percent on the Algebra HSA. According to MCPS Chief Academic Officer Jody Leleck, Blair exceeded the requirements by achieving 86.9 percent overall in reading and 93.3 percent overall in math. She said that because Blair met the AMOs for every subgroup identified by NCLB, Blair is now cleared of school improvement status.
Williams said that when a high school does not meet AYP for three years in a row, as Blair did not prior to last year, they are put in Year 2 of School Improvement. The Year 2 schools cannot be taken off until they meet AYP for two consecutive years, which Blair has now done.
For the past two years, every category of students at Blair has met their AMO, which in turn means the school met AYP and is no longer on the state list of schools that need improvement. "The staff and students really worked hard to meet that challenge, particularly in the areas of ESOL and Special Education," he said.
According to Leleck, when Blair did not meet AYP for the 2005-2006 school year, it acquired the label of "Local Attention." When Blair again did not meet AYP in 2006-2007, the status changed to Year One of School Improvement, which was raised to Year Two when Blair failed the following year. In 2008-2009, Blair met AYP and was held in Year Two until this year, when Blair was cleared of all status.
However, Williams said that the administration will continue to work hard to meet AYP this next year when the HSAs are given. According to Williams, the AMOs get harder to meet each year, in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which sets the goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2010. "We can celebrate now, but we're already preparing for this next administration [of the HSAs]," he said.
He said that the Blair administration will work with students who need help with preparing for the Algebra and English HSAs. "We give them a plan of action," he said. Those still learning English will need to continue working harder to meet the raised standards, particularly on the English HSA, according to Williams. "The issue still lies with students who are struggling with English because it can be difficult when it is a second language," Williams said.
Leleck said that she does not predict Blair will have as much of a challenge in future years. She believes that the school met AYP this year due to high standards and hard work on the part of teachers and students who take their performance seriously.
Leleck also said that LEP students still have the most difficulty meeting the AMO for their category, particularly in high school. "You have large numbers of students who are learning language as well as content," she said. Even outside of LEP, Leleck said that there are countywide gaps between the AMO subgroups but Blair in particular is alleviating them. "There is a gap across the board, across the state, across the system, across the country," she said. "You are really closing the gap at Blair."
However, Leleck said that two schools in MCPS did not meet AYP this year. Northwood did not have the required graduation rate for the senior class of 2009 so they will focus on improving that for the class of 2010, she said. Springbrook also did not meet AYP this year because they did not meet the AMOs in the Special Ed and LEP groups in the reading category, according to Leleck. Both these schools will be put in local attention, while Watkins Mill met AYP this year and will be held in the local attention category. They can absolve that status by meeting AYP in 2011 for the second year in a row.
Assistant Principal Suzanne Harvey, who is in charge of the academic Bridge Plans to help students meet graduation requirements for the HSAs, said that there is a very particular process for deciding who requires what type of help.
First, she said, the administration looks at how many students are needed to meet AYP and then at which of those students are close to passing HSAs or not so close.
Those who are perhaps only a few points away from passing the HSA receive individual assistance to raise their scores, while those who need a little more work can choose to complete the bridge projects. "While we have to be cognizant always to meet AYP, we never negate the other students," Harvey said. "You can't just lump kids together." Chesney said that students doing Bridge Plan are accounted for as failing the exams and do not help meet proficiency standards. "Bridge Plan does not impact proficiency positively," she explained.
Students who complete bridge projects focus more on their graduation requirements and do not have to worry about the school AYP requirements, according to Harvey. "We're strategic about that," she said. "We make sure that a student doing a bridge project is not needed to meet AYP."
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