School Fails AYP, Institutes Reform

by Adam Kopp ’11

Sherwood did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the 2009-2010 school year. AYP is a measure of academic performance established by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Three subgroups within the school, Hispanic, Limited English Proficient (LEP), and Free and Reduced Meal Students (FARMS) all failed to meet the minimum participation requirement in reading, and the LEP subgroup fell short of satisfactory reading proficiency. Additionally, the FARMS, Special Education and African American subgroups met reading proficiency by margins of three or fewer students. 

To meet AYP, 95 percent of students from the entire school population and each individual subgroup must take the English 10 and Algebra High School Assessments (HSA). There is also a minimum proficiency rate called Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO). Sherwood’s AMO last year for math and English was 64.9 percent and 72.7 percent respectively, and next year it will move up to 73.7 percent and 79.5 percent. By 2014, nationwide AMO will be 100 percent. 

As a direct result of Sherwood’s AYP shortcomings, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has mandated the completion of a “School Inventory.” All staff members were to complete the 46 question survey, the results of which will be evaluated first by the MSDE and then Principal Bill Gregory.  

 In general, AYP-related consequences are relatively minimal for schools like Sherwood that receive no Title 1 federal funding. If Sherwood fails to meet AYP in any of the same areas next year, it will be designated as being in the “Developing Stage” of school improvement. Only after four total years of not meeting AYP would the school be placed under “Corrective Action.” 

One administrative step taken by Sherwood to address AYP is the formation of an Extended School Improvement Team (ESIT). The ESIT consists of Sherwood’s five administrators, the heads of the special education, ESOL, mathematics, English, science and social studies departments and Dr. Myra Smith, the Director of School Performance for Sherwood and the Northeast Consortium. The two main tasks of the team are to address the in-classroom needs of seniors who have yet to pass HSAs and to monitor the progress of these individuals, whose number is estimated to be around 40. 

Sherwood also has changed the format of its monthly staff meetings. The traditional meetings of all staff members have given way to smaller, rolling meetings. “The format and focus of the staff meetings is on general instructional practices that will meet the needs of individual learners,” said Gregory. “They are being sponsored by the ESOL department and [MCPS] central office, because I wanted people who are experts in this form of staff development.” 

In coordination with this concentration on teaching, several plans are being implemented to directly help students who need to pass HSAs. One is an HSA workshop period taught mostly by the resource teachers of subjects that give an HSA (mathematics, English, science and social studies). The workshop period was conceived in June as a time for students to work on Bridge projects. Completed Bridge projects satisfy a student’s graduation requirement in place of a passed HSA, but are reflected as failures in AYP performance. This makes Bridge projects a less viable option for the school, so the workshop period has shifted its focus to helping with HSAs. 

Additional plans are also being used to aid these students. Assistant School Administrator George Awkard summarized these methods, saying “other things that have been done include adjusting students’ schedules, pull-out periods and blitzes.” Students involved in pull-out periods are removed from different classes three times a week and concentrate their efforts on HSA preparation. Blitzes operate similarly but occur after school. While these help develop the test-taking skills of students who have failed HSAs previously, there is also going to be increased in-class HSA practice for 10th graders, with hopes that these students pass their first time. 

All of these tactics seek to better student performance on the tests; Sherwood’s participation deficiencies, on the other hand, should be ameliorated by the school’s grade level promotion policy. Grade level used to be defined by sheer credit accumulation, and such a method resulted in students who were technically seniors but lacked credits in a specific area of study. It would have been possible for students, especially from other counties, to have enough total credits to be seniors without ever having taken English 10 and its corresponding HSA. This was particularly detrimental to the standing of the LEP subgroup. A new promotion policy has a list of courses that must be taken before a student advances to the next grade level. 

Sherwood’s status as a special ESOL center makes it even more difficult for the LEP subgroup to meet AYP. The department offers enrollment to students in the three lowest ESOL levels from all schools in the Northeast Consortium. “It does [make it more difficult],” ESOL Resource Teacher Laura Bernard-Sanchez said. “It’s not because of the number of students, it’s because we take on students who start off with the lowest language proficiency.”