Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press
Carolina Public Press analyzed 2010-2011 Adequate Yearly Progress reports — the measurement of a school’s ability to meet No Child Left Behind requirements — and found that more than half of the region’s evaluated schools failed to meet federal education goals. Photo by Angie Newsome.

Still, Western North Carolina’s school performance beats statewide success rate

Western North Carolina children are heading back to school on the heels of the recent release of federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress accountability reports. The yearly reports gauge all U.S. public schools’ progress toward making sure every student meets reading, writing and math proficiency standards required by the No Child Left Behind law by the 2013-2014 school year. It is one of a set of rankings and reports parents, community members and others can use to learn more about school success.

Statewide, 27.7 percent — or 700 — of ranked schools met Adequate Yearly Progress goals for the 2011-2012 school year, according to a statistical summary of the growth and performance of the public schools during the that school year released Aug. 4 by the N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction. The summary also showed that 72.3 percent of ranked schools across the state — or 1,830 — did not making Adequate Yearly Progress.

An analysis by Carolina Public Press shows that, in the 17 westernmost counties of North Carolina, 44 percent — or 98 — of the 223 public schools assessed reached their educational goals for the previous school year, often called “making” Adequate Yearly Progress. This compares with 56 percent — or 125 — that did not. Charter schools are public schools and are therefore included in the Adequate Yearly Progress report grades. One school in Western North Carolina — Buncombe County Middle College — had an Adequate Yearly Progress status listed as N/A, or not applicable, and was noted as a Special Evaluation School.

According to the Adequate Yearly Progress reports, the three best-performing school systems in Western North Carolina were, in order, Polk, Mitchell and Madison counties. Polk County Schools was the only district in the region where all of its schools met all stated education goals.

Swain County, Buncombe County and Asheville City schools were the top three worst-performing systems in the area, according to the data. Swain County’s school system was the only one in Western North Carolina in which none of its schools made Adequate Yearly Progress. The Swain County School District posted additional accountability information on its website in response to the reports, including the statement that its federal “benchmarks increased dramatically during the 2010-2011 school year.”

Read and download Carolina Public Press’ listing of 2010-2011 Adequate Yearly Progress report results for all WNC public schools here. [PDF]

Read and download Carolina Public Press’ summary of the 2010-2011 Adequate Yearly Progress reports here. [PDF]

The latest round of Adequate Yearly Progress reports come at a time when the Obama administration is looking to grant qualifying states waivers to No Child Left Behind’s requirements because Congress has not passed a bill yet to reform the law. The Herald-Sun in Durham recently reported that North Carolina plans to apply for a No Child Left Behind requirement waiver from the Obama administration in part because schools do not make Adequate Yearly Progress when just one target goal is missed.

Currently, not making Adequate Yearly Progress results in tiered levels of corrective actions, depending on whether the school or school district has not previously met its target goals. It can range from offering students the option of transferring to a different school or offering of supplemental educational services to replacing a school’s staff or completely restructuring the school’s curriculum and organization.

Students’ end-of-grade test scores and writing assessments are part of the analysis. Statistics are tracked by the student body as a whole as well as by the No Child Left Behind-specified demographic groups of white, African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, and multi-racial students; economically disadvantaged students (those eligible for free or reduced-price lunch); limited English proficient students; and students with disabilities.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was built on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Title I of which guides distribution of federal funds to schools and school districts serving disadvantaged students, particularly children in low-income families.

No Child Left Behind “defines sanctions for all public schools with an emphasis on those schools receiving Title I funds that do not make (Adequate Yearly Progress) in the same subject for consecutive years,” according to an overview from the North Carolina Dept. of Public Instruction. “A Title I school that does not make (Adequate Yearly Progress) in the same subject for two consecutive years is designated as a Title I School Improvement school. The more years a school does not meet its (Adequate Yearly Progress) targets in the same subject, the more severe sanctions become.”

According to the N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction website’s information about federal Title I funds, “about half the schools and all school districts in North Carolina receive Title I funding.”

For the 2010-2011 school year, the Western North Carolina schools that received  Title I funds and were identified as needing improvement with regard to No Child Left Behind standards were the following:

Sugarloaf Elementary in Henderson County was the only school on this list that subsequently made Adequate Yearly Progress during the 2010-2011 school year.

Additional North Carolina school accountability resource information includes:

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Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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  1. Your style of chosing headlines could leave readers with the wrong impression–at least with NC public schools. No where in your headline or summaries do you indicate that the No Child Left Behind federal policy may be using flawed measurement choices to measure progress in the schools. Many readers only read headlines and not the whole article or contrary articles, so guess headline readers are left with the impression that NC public schools are performing below par rather than with the idea that they may be but other measures ought to be reviewed as well to determine if all measures say the same thing.