September 4, 2008

Petersburg Schools Make Progress on AYP


PETERSBURG -- Improvements in Adequate Yearly Progress scores were the topic at last night's School Board meeting.

"We're not where we need to be, but we're not where we were either," Superintendent Dr. James Victory said. He added that all schools did an incredible job and that there are solid areas of growth across the board.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind act, each state has developed and implemented measurements for determining whether its schools are making adequate yearly progress.

AYP is an individual state's measure of progress toward the goal of 100 percent of students achieving to state academic standards in at least reading/language arts and math. It sets the minimum level of proficiency that the state, its school districts, and schools must achieve each year on annual tests and related academic indicators.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. Alvera Parrish and Testing Supervisor Gwen Price provided a report to the School Board on the AYP accomplishments in the school system. Though only one school made AYP based on testing results from last school year, a majority of the schools saw strong improvements.

"I can remember when we used to see single digits up there," School Board member Bernard Lundy said of scores on a projector screen. "Now all of our passing rates are in the double digits."

Victory said that although alternative governance is required at J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School and Vernon Johns Junior High School, it is largely due to federal guidelines and that the schools had already started "that journey" before he was superintendent.

"Had we been here a year earlier with all the support and great educators, then we wouldn't be here (lacking accreditation). I still believe that in two years we'll be fully accredited."

Alternative governance is required for any school that doesn't make AYP three years in a row.

Math consultant Pat Herzig -- who is working with Vernon Johns as part of alternative governance -- said she has never seen such a rapid change in education.

"There has been a real climate change in this district since the initial assessment we completed in the spring of 2007," Herzig said. "There's an attitude that 'we can do it.'"

Herzig said the climate change comes from a number of changes in the school system.

"Everybody had changed," Herzig said. "There was a new superintendent, new assistant superintendent, and all the best practices in the industry, all the good instructional practices are being used here."

School Board member Fred B. Wilson said he's glad to hear such a good report from someone from the outside.

Public comments regarding the AYP results were mostly positive.

"I'm pleased to see that we're going in the right direction," said Gloria Brown, who added that her "home school" of Walnut Hill Elementary School actually fared worse in this year's AYP results.

She believes that English testing results could be improved if teachers would speak proper English around each other and while talking to students.

"I don't want to hear conversational slang in the schools," Brown said. "Don't adjust your grammar to the kids' grammar."

She also suggested a summer reading list for all grade levels.

Her husband, Kevin Brown, also spoke and said the community needs to be more involved in the schools.

"I don't care about making AYP through Safe Harbor, I want to see us above 75 percent or 77 percent passing," Brown said.

- F.M. Wiggins may be reached at 732-3456, ext. 254 or [email protected]

Originally published by STAFF WRITER.

(c) 2008 Progress-Index, The Petersburg, Va.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.