No Child Left Behind waiver abolishes AYP mandate at Franklin Regional
By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Pennsylvania schools will be judged on student progress rather than lofty performance targets beginning this year.
The state last week became the 41st to receive a waiver from federal No Child Left Behind mandates that require all students — regardless of ability — to meet proficiency goals on state standardized tests.
Instead, schools will be required to decrease the percentage of students not meeting state standards in math and reading by half.
Locally, that won't change how students are educated, Franklin Regional School District officials said.
“Franklin Regional believes in a comprehensive educational program for all students,” Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac said. “The waiver does not change our commitment to excellence nor our work with our academic, arts and athletic programs, as well as our support structures for children. We hope that our community measures us based on our daily work with children.”
The waiver abolishes the idea of annual yearly progress, commonly known as AYP. In the past, all schools were judged based on student performance on annual standardized tests.
If a certain percentage of students didn't meet or exceed state requirements on a series of tests in reading and math, a school would not make “AYP.” After many years of missing that benchmark, sanctions could be taken against the school.
At Franklin Regional, both the high school and middle school missed state targets in recent years.
The district wasn't sanctioned because each school missed AYP targets only once.
This spring, No Child Left Behind is set to require 100 percent of students in a school to meet or exceed state standards.
The waiver releases Pennsylvania schools from that mandate — to Reljac's relief.
She said that despite the district's traditionally high performance on the exams, it was unlikely that every student in grades three through eight — regardless of special needs — would test at the level the state required.
“We will continue to work to ensure that all students leave our district ready for the next steps,” Reljac said.
According to the state Department of Education, public schools will receive an academic score based on graduation rates, attendance, student performance on standardized tests and how a school improves student performance.
Most changes will occur with schools that have received a Title I designation as a low-income school, state officials said. Those schools — which, Reljac said, include Heritage Elementary — will be eligible for extra grant money if they are among the most successful. The schools that struggle the most will be required to change how students are taught.
Those options aren't in place for non-Title I schools, state education department spokesman Tim Eller said.
Few changes will occur in high-achieving districts, where most students already meet standards, said Linda Hippert, executive director at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.
“Sometimes, a school can be high performing but not show significant student growth. That will be required now,” she said.
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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