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AYP just one way to measure our schools

Posted: August 21, 2011 - 7:00am

It’s that time of year — the kids are packing their book bags and lunch boxes and heading back to school.

For Kenai Peninsula Borough School District students, schools open Tuesday.

First and foremost, let’s make sure the first day of school is safe and fun for everyone. If you know you’ll be out on the roads when kids will be going to school or coming home, be sure to give yourself a few extra minutes. Expect to have to stop for buses, or wait for students to cross at a crosswalk. Be sure to slow down and pay extra attention in school zones and school parking lots; younger students sometimes get a little too excited and might dart into the street without first looking — be sure you are looking out for them. And remember, it’s illegal to pass a school bus when the red lights are flashing.

Now is also a good time for our community to reflect on the value and quality of our schools. We recently reported that 30 of the school districts 44 schools had met Adequate Yearly Progress goals as set out under federal No Child Left Behind guidelines for the 2010-11 school year. Results for the district as a whole are expected Sept. 2.

Adequate Yearly Progress is measured annually through standardized testing. Students are tested in language arts — reading and writing — and math. In order to meet AYP, a certain percentage of students must score at the “proficient” level, both in the school as a whole, as well as in a number of population subgroups. That target for last year was 82.88 percent for language arts, and 74.57 percent in math. In addition, there are a number of other targets, such as attendance and graduation rate, that schools must meet.

We applaud those schools who achieved AYP goals. Under No Child Left Behind, the threshold for Adequate Yearly Progress is raised. Raising the bar, and then meeting a higher goal, is something we should all strive to do in our personal and professional lives. It takes a team of teachers, support staff, administrators, students and their families working together to make that happen.

At the same time, we don’t want to disparage any school that didn’t meet AYP goals. We agree with Superintendent Steve Atwater, who noted that “it is ironic that some of these schools may have improved test results from the previous year, but did not quite clear the higher bar.” He went on to say that while it might be easy to assume that a school that didn’t meet AYP goals is failing, there is much more to be considered when evaluating a school.

“While AYP is an important designation, it may not, however, be a defining one,” he said.

Indeed, for most of the Peninsula schools not meeting AYP, meeting the higher goals came down to one subject in one subgroup. In other words, even with the higher standards, schools that didn’t make AYP didn’t miss by much.

That the district continues to strive to meet higher goals — and is to a large extent meeting them — is encouraging, and we encourage the community to continue to be involved with and supportive of our school district. There are lots of good things happening in our local schools, and most of those things aren’t measured by AYP.

In short: Keep an eye out for kids heading back to school on Tuesday, and while you’re at it, take a moment to consider the value of a strong school system — and note that there’s many ways to measure quality.

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