Caldwell improves on ‘No Child Left Behind’

Caldwell County showed improvement in 2003-2004, based on the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

But there were still four schools, two of which are now considered “Schools of Choice”, that had not shown AYP in a given area, based on the federal mandates.

Parents of students at Gamewell Middle and Hudson Elementary will receive notification this week of the designation and, according to No Child Left Behind rules, will have the option of transferring their child or children to alternate schools that do meet the qualifications.

Of the 374 required testing objectives established by the federal program, schools in Caldwell County met 363 goals or 97 percent in every area tested for 10 different subgroups: White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, multiracial, economically disadvantaged students, limited English proficient students, students with disabilities and the school as a whole.

Out of Caldwell County’s 24 public schools, 20 (83 percent) made AYP, an improvement of more than 20 percent over last year.

“The overall data is very good, and we are pleased with the high success rate; however with this legislation if one subgroup does not meet the standard, then all are subject to a dark shadow of nonperformance,” Caldwell County Schools Superintendent Tom McNeel said. “We, like every school system in North Carolina and across the nation, have this challenge with this new legislation because if a school misses even one goal it does not make adequate progress.”

The schools making AYP are: Baton Elementary, Collettsville, Davenport, Dudley Shoals, Gamewell Elementary, Granite Falls Elementary, Granite Falls Middle, Happy Valley, Hibriten, Horizons Elementary, Kings Creek, Lower Creek, Oak Hill, Sawmills, South Caldwell, Valmead Basic, West Caldwell, West Lenoir and Whitnel Elementary and William Lenoir Middle.

Gamewell Middle, Gateway Alternative School, Hudson Elementary, and Hudson Middle did not make AYP in 2003-04. For Gamewell Middle and Hudson Elementary, 2003-04 was the second consecutive year of not meeting the federal AYP standards.

Because both schools are entitled to Title I federal funds, students in those schools are eligible for “school choice.” That means that all students enrolled, approximately 600 at Gamewell Middle and 790 at Hudson Elementary, now have the option to transfer to designated schools, with priority given to the lowest achieving, low income students.

Hudson Elementary students will be allowed to transfer to Whitnel Elementary or Baton Elementary. As for middle school students at Gamewell Middle, they may attend Oak Hill or Kings Creek.

This week, parents of students enrolled at Gamewell Middle or Hudson Elementary school will receive a letter in the mail providing notification of the NCLB status and options available, to include student transfer and transportation services.

Signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act is intended to create accountability for results; an emphasis on doing what works based on scientific research; expanded parental options; and expanded local control and flexibility, according to the Department of Education Web site.

Caldwell County Schools Title I Coordinator Caryl Burns said she is pleased with the school system’s performance in the first two years of the program. Last year Caldwell County Schools had a total of eight schools that did not show AYP, four of which were Title I schools.

“I feel pretty good about it,” Burns said. “We cut it in half. If we cut it in half next year we will be doing well.”

But that still leaves the opportunity for parents of students at Gamewell Middle, which has an enrollment of 600, and Hudson Elementary, which has an enrollment of 790, to transfer.

It’s impossible to predict how many students will opt for transfers because this is the first year that the School of Choice requirements will take effect, School-Community Relations Director Libby Brown said.

“At Hudson, parents are very satisfied with the new facility and they have done well with their test scores,” she said. “I think the parents (of both schools) are satisfied.”

Parents of Gamewell Middle and Hudson Elementary will have until July 30 to decide whether they want to exercise their right to have their child transferred to one of the designated alternate choices.

Other than the possibility of having to move teachers, Brown said there is no anticipated cost to the school system if large groups of students transfer. Those students who transfer will be bussed to their alternate school choice, but funds for that service are financed with federal funds.

McNeel emphasized that the newly released results are not necessarily a poor reflection of the school, and in the case of Gamewell Middle and Hudson Elementary, it was a failure to meet standards in one specific area.

McNeel said that in End of Grade reading and math testing, more than 90 percent of Hudson Elementary students in grades 3 through 5 were at or above grade level. At Gamewell Middle, 85 percent of students were at or above grade level. As a whole, 91 percent of Caldwell County’s students were at or above grade level on the End of Grade tests.

Under NCLB, schools are expected to have 100 percent of their students at proficiency level by 2014. Schools must make AYP toward meeting proficiency goals each year, and the state has established gradually increasing levels of proficiency.

The yearly standard for improvement is based on the same reading and math End of Grade test scores for grades 3-8 used in the State ABCs accountability model and for high schools the 10th grade Comprehensive Reading and Math Test. Science will be added in 2007-08.

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