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Federal Indicators Explained

BUCKINGHAM – The September meeting of the Buckingham County School Board included several presentations on academics and facilities.

Superintendent Cecil Snead opened the presentations with a report on Annual Measurable Objectives in Virginia.

Dr. Snead began by explaining that Virginia, under the No Child Left Behind Act flexibility waivers granted by the United States Department of Education, has established annual measurable objectives, AMOs, for reducing proficiency gaps between students in the commonwealth's lowest and highest performing schools.

Compared to the way it was reported with AYP, Adequate Yearly Progress, Snead shared that AMOs are “completely new.”

He explained that AMOs represent the percentage of students within each subgroup in the lowest performing schools that must pass the SOL, Standards of Learning, tests in reading and mathematics. Snead said that the gap between the lowest-performing schools and the highest-performing schools must be closed within six years.

“So we have gone from having to have a certain percentage in a certain subgroup meet the pass rate to our students in those certain subgroups…getting closer and closer to their peers who perform highly,” said Snead.

The superintendent explained that the AMOs would be based on the actual performance of students in the lowest-achieving schools on SOL reading tests in 2010-2011 and on the new SOL math tests that were administered in 2011-2012 for lowest performing schools.

From AYP to AMO

At that point, Snead called on Donna Matthews, director of academic services, to update the board on the new federal indicators and the associated changes for Buckingham schools.

Matthews reiterated that AYP has been replaced with FAMOs, Federal Annual Measurable Objectives. She added that some new groups have been added to the student subgroups used in the AYP.

“Gap Group 1 is probably going to be the most difficult for Virginia to meet because it is an area that includes three of our subgroups that are working diligently but having a harder time mastering and closing that gap,” stated Matthews.

Gap Group 1 will include student with disabilities, limited-English proficient students, and economically disadvantaged students. Gap Group 2 includes African-American students; and, Gap Group 3 encompasses Hispanic students.

Explaining the goal of accountability, Matthews talked about trying to close the proficiency gaps by half within the six-year period. To do that, she said they would be looking at three areas-priority schools, low performing schools; focus schools, low-performing Title I schools; and reward schools, high performing Title I schools.

Continuing, Matthews said the priority schools would make up five percent of the state's Title I schools; and, would be required to employ a state approved turnaround partner to assist in the development and implementation of reforms and improvement strategies. Ten percent of Title I schools would be focus schools and must employ a state approved coach.

When Acie Allen asked about funding for the turnaround partner and coach, Matthews said the money would have to come out of Title I funding.

As far as meeting the participation rates, Matthews shared that participation rates have always been easy for Buckingham to meet because the division tests all students.

Matthews explained that with the old AYP, along with English and math, high schools would be required to meet a FGI, federal graduation index, which is set at 80 percent for 2012-13.

“To meet the federal guidelines for AYP, we had to have 29 categories and we had to make it in everyone of those categories,” stated Matthews. She added that now K through eight must meet 36 indicators; and, high schools must meet 37, with the additional indicator being the graduation rate.

Moving on to how Buckingham is rating, Matthews provided a chart of areas that Buckingham met or exceeded the state's pass rate.

Those areas included Grade 8 English Reading, 91 percent; EOC Writing, 93; U. S. History, 94 percent with 55 percent of those students scoring advanced; Virginia Studies, 91 percent with 55 percent advanced; U. S. History, 83 percent; World History, 84; World History II, 93 percent with 24 percent advanced; Grade 3 History, 87; Geometry, 75; Algebra I, 80; Grade 6 Math, 80 percent with 13 percent advanced; Grade 8 Pre-Algebra, 74 percent; Chemistry, 99 percent; Earth Science 95; Biology, 94; Grade 5 Science, 88 percent; and Grade 8 Science, 94 percent.

“We are really proud of what we are showing you here,” stated Matthews. “Our teachers have worked very hard and our students have worked very hard.”

According to Matthews, under the FGI, federal graduation index, for 2012, BCHS was at 80 percent.

However, she explained that the federal indicators for graduation rate are determined by using the previous year's status, which for the 2010-2011 was 77.40 percent.

Reiterating that the rate has to be 80 percent, Matthews said BCHS would not meet the federal indicator this year for graduation but would next year because of the 80 percent rate in 2011-2012.

Looking at the performance rates, Matthews, noting that the official report would be released at the end of the month, stated, “We are doing really well. The preliminary reports that we have indicate that the high school and the middle school have met all federal indicators in math and English performance.

Matthews explained that with the closing of the county's elementary schools and the move this year to the renovated complex, the elementary schools are not reported but are considered in “closed status.”

She offered, “So we don't have a report on our elementary schools and we will not until they finish the school year.”

Sharing performance indicators in subgroups for English, Matthews reported BCMS at 88 percent for All; 83 percent for Gap Group 1 (disadvantaged, disabled, and ESL); 82 percent for Gap Group 2 (Black); 100 percent for Gap Group 3 (Hispanic); 100 percent for Asian; 84 for Economically Disadvantaged; 57 percent for Disabled; and 90 percent for White.

BCHS scored 92 percent for All; 89 percent Gap Group 1; 86 percent Gap Group 2; 75 percent for Gap Group 3; 100 percent for Asian; 89 for Economically Disadvantaged; 78 percent for Disabled; and 97 percent for White.

Performance indicators for math at BCMS report 76 percent for All; 67 for Gap Group 1; 66 for Gap Group 2; 88 percent for Gap Group 3; 100 for Asian; 68 percent for Economically Disadvantaged; 29 percent for Disabled; and 82 percent for White.

BCHS scored 72 percent for All in math; 68 for Gap Group 1; 66 for Gap Group 2; 67 for Gap Group 3; No Report for Asian; 69 percent for Economically Disadvantaged; 47 for Disabled; and 78 percent for White.

Dr. Snead interjected, “Looking at the subgroups for mathematics and looking at those gap groups, we met all of those.

Agreeing, Matthews stated, “We did, in math and English…in performance, we met them all-at the middle school and the high school.” She added, “This is a testimony to how hard everybody's working.”

Concluding the segment on the new AMO federal indicators, Matthews reported that they anticipate BCMS has met all federal indicators. However, she reiterated that because of the 2011 graduation rate, BCHS would not meet all federal indicators. Likewise, because of the graduation rate issue, the division will not meet all federal indicators.

However, noting that neither the middle nor high school are Title I schools, Matthews said if they were, they would not be classified as priority or focus schools.

“And, based on our SOL scores for our four elementary schools that are currently not reporting (because of the recent consolidation) we would not perceive that we would be a priority or focus school,” she shared.

“So, we are in good shape. We are working really hard and we are going to continue to work hard,” stated Matthews.

Dual Enrollment

In its stride to offer students increased academic options and opportunities, the school division continues to increase its number of dual enrollment classes.

Matthews and Rudolph Roethel, assistant principal at BCHS, provided an update on the move to offer students the opportunity to complete an associate's degree while earning their high school diploma.

Roethel began by commending members of the high school staff who have earned endorsements in conjunction with their master's degrees in order to teach the dual enrollment courses. He also expressed his appreciation to the school board for its continued support for the program.

The duo talked about the cohort requirements for students who enter the program in the eighth grade but actually start preparation for meeting the requirements for the cohort in the seventh grade.

According to Roethel, the cohort requirements for students include passing the SVCC placement test with a 39 on reading; 41 on writing; and, in their junior taking the math test with a passing score of 41.

Matthews explained that students who meet the cohort selection criteria have first selection for course offerings, study group and peer scheduling, and participate in a College Success Skills class.

The initial cohort, Cohort 2015, includes 26 students; and the Cohort 2016, which began on August 23, 2012, consists of 24 eighth grade students.

Matthews stressed that students, after meeting SVCC requirements, may take dual enrollment classes even though they are not in the cohort. She shared, “We still very much encourage our young people that are interested to take those courses.”

She added that students, with the permission of the principal, could also take online courses through SVCC in the summer or during the school year. However, she noted that parents would be responsible for the cost of online courses.

Moreover, Matthews said students could take Virtual Virginia online advanced placement courses; however, SVCC does require a minimum of a “3” to receive college credit.

Although the books for the dual enrollment courses are provided by the school system, the costs for the dual enrollment classes through SVCC are fully reimbursable to the division because BCHS is using its staff to do the teaching, stated Matthews.

As the board discussed the benefits of the dual enrollment courses, Allen questioned the need to continue participating in the Governor's School.

Matthews explained that the Governor's School offers a different instructional program for gifted students.

When Allen asked about the cost of Governor's School, Matthews said she thought it was about $38,000. Allen noted that there are also the associated transportation costs for those students.

LEED Certification

Davis said that early on in the project, he was told that the project should meet LEED Silver criteria. “It now looks like Gold is within our reach, easily,” he shared.

LEED, explained Davis, stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. He said the rating system was developed to evaluate a building's performance from a whole building perspective over the life of the building in key areas including human and environmental health, sustainable site development, water and energy efficiency, material selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Davis said the benefit of LEED is the long-term payoff. “But the true value of this is going to be the health of the students and a good learning environment,” he added.

Offering that the facility, which includes Buckingham Primary and Buckingham Elementary schools, would probably draw national recognition, Davis stated, “It is something that is going to reflect well on all of us.”

Callahan explained the LEED strategies for the two schools have resulted in buildings that are healthy and productive, include natural lighting, are safe and secure, and have a high indoor air quality. She added that they are also cost effective, sustainable, and conserve energy, water, and waste.

She said the benefits include improved academic performance and environmental quality while decreasing absenteeism and increasing employee satisfaction.

Noting that students and faculty spend more time in school than in any environment outside the home, Callahan said the improved air quality can improve health concerns including asthma, flu, sick building syndrome, respiratory problems and headaches.

At the end of the presentation, David Christian asked, “What is going for gold do for us and what does it cost us?”

Callahan said at this point she did not expect going for gold to cost anymore. She added that having a facility that will more than likely draw national attention would be a benefit.

“It seems like to me we are going for a whole lot of pomp and circumstance for something that does absolutely zero for our county,” said Christian, noting that he questioned applying for the LEED certification early on in the project.

“How does it affect the children of Buckingham County?” he questioned. “That's what I want to know.”

Offering his opinion, Dr. Snead likened the LEED certification for the facility to the best practices in education going on inside of it. “It's doing our best as we see fit,” he concluded.