Schools tackle AYP and student proficiency
Ninety-five percent of public school districts made adequate yearly progress for 2009-10, according to the state’s 2010 Report Card. Student proficiency grew to 76 percent in both reading and math, and 99 percent of core content classes taught in the state were led by teachers deemed “highly qualified”.
“Each year, those progress goals get a little bit harder to attain as we work our way toward the ultimate goal of 100 percent proficiency, and each year, our schools rise to the challenge,” said Secretary of Education Tom Oster.
Under South Dakota’s accountability system, which applies to public school districts only, adequate yearly progress is determined by students’ performance on the Dakota STEP. The test was administered to approximately 64,400 students in grades 3-8 and 11 in the spring of 2010. A third factor – attendance or graduation rate – is another part of the determination.
Following the release of the Report Card, districts have 10 days to appeal an AYP determination. After the appeal process ends, the department will update its online Report Card, to reflect any changes made as a result of appeals.
Student proficiency inches forward
In 2010, 76 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in math, which is up from 75 percent last year. At the state level, all of the sub-groups for which districts are held accountable saw slight improvement.
Seventy-six percent of students also scored proficient or advanced in reading, up from 75 percent last year. In reading, the sub-groups remained steady or decreased slightly.
“This was the second year of our new reading test. Scores typically drop the first year of a new test, which they did in 2009, so it was good to see scores move in an upward direction, even if it was slight,” Oster said.
To facilitate continued growth of reading proficiency among students, the Department of Education is implementing an initiative called Reading Up. Reading Up will provide targeted training to teachers; it will focus on the two reading standards at each grade level with which students struggle the most.
“What we’ve found is that we’re not teaching those particular standards to the depth that we could be,” Oster said. Through Reading Up, teachers will zero in on the targeted standards – revising lesson plans, instruction and assignments – to reach a deeper level of understanding among students. If enough districts participate, it could impact statewide test scores, Oster said.
Teacher quality reaches milestone
Since the state issued its first Report Card in 2003, the percentage of classes taught by “highly qualified” teachers has increased from 88.7 to 99 in 2010. A highly qualified teacher is defined as an individual with full certification, a bachelor’s degree and one who can demonstrate a high level of competency, which may be defined by performance on a subject-matter test.
“We have been chipping away at that number since No Child Left Behind was first introduced,” said Deputy Secretary of Education Melody Schopp. Schopp credits increased awareness, a better tracking system and hard work on the part of teachers to make sure they have the proper credentials in place.
School improvement is continual process
Under the state’s accountability system, districts or schools that do not make adequate yearly progress for two years in a row are considered in “school improvement.”
Depending on the size of its student population, a school or district may be required to make progress in as many as 18 different cells at three distinct levels: grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. The larger and more diverse, the more areas for which a school or district is held accountable. In addition, the system doesn’t consider whether a school missed AYP by just one cell or by 10. “There’s no partial credit,” Oster explained. “It’s all or nothing.”
The 2010 Report Card currently shows 96 schools on the School Improvement list; that list is subject to change based on the appeals process. Schools identified as “in improvement” go through a comprehensive process that involves analyzing data, focusing resources and making calculated changes to improve student achievement. A school or district in improvement must make AYP for two years in a row to make it off the list.
In 2010, there were nine schools that made it off the list.
Full results available online
The 2010 Report Card, including district- and school-level results, is available online at www.doe.sd.gov. Click on the Report Card icon.