Disappointing AYP Scores Challenge Our Schools, Communities To Dig Deeper

Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell, Superintendent of Schools

Everyone who glanced at the recent stories about our school system’s progress in meeting state targets as part of the No Child Left Behind legislation should have been disappointed by what they read. While our scores on state tests for elementary and middle school students remained relatively flat across the system, the rising bar left an unprecedented 21 of our 100 comprehensive schools failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Rest assured, I was equally disappointed. Seven of our elementary schools fell short of the target, as did 14 of our 19 middle schools, and one of our two charter schools. For the first time in three years, the number of elementary and middle schools making AYP decreased.

We certainly aren’t alone in that boat. As the targets for students scoring proficient or advanced on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) and High School Assessment (HSA) continue to climb each year, school systems across the state are seeing more schools fall below the bar. It’s not, in most cases, that there has been no growth in scores. Rather, it’s that the growth in scores has not equalled or outpaced the target growth.

The fact of the matter is that nearly eight out of every 10 of our elementary and middle schools are meeting state targets. And in both reading and math at the elementary and middle school levels, the our percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced is greater than the statewide percentage.

It is important to point out where we have been successful, but it’s equally important to cite the cases where we haven’t. And to be clear, while we must acknowledge the challenges that we and our communities face, we can never allow ourselves to be in the position of using those challenges as excuses. That would be a grave disservice to the very children who need us the most.

Our school system employees do an unbelievable job – much of it behind the scenes, late at night, and out of the public eye – to help our students meet the increasing myriad challenges that present themselves every day. I have great faith in their abilities.

But the fact remains that we must get better. We must find new ways, infuse new energies, and cultivate new methods to help our diverse group of students. And we must not stop when those students reach the bar. That, after all, is the floor of our success. We must not stop until our children reach the ceiling. Equally daunting in this economy, we’re going to have to do it without more resources.

The Journey To Greatness is no easy endeavor, and this is clearly a dip in the road. The margins of success get slimmer as the years progress, however, so our task is to delve quickly into this issue to keep that dip from becoming a pothole.  We must pore over the data, direct the appropriate resources, and implement the necessary interventions for each individual student to fit the needs of that student. We must raise the achievement level of our lowest performing students and focus on the schools now below the bar, but we can never lose sight of our higher performing students and schools, either.

This is not a ship we can sail alone. As I have said many times, no school system can be great by itself. We need the resources of our business and community partners, the collaborative efforts of parents, and the dedication of our students to go along with the talent and passion of our employees.

This setback also does not end our journey. It simply challenges us to dig a little deeper, work a little harder, develop a little more resolve, and be a little more creative to achieve the results we want. I believe we are up to that challenge, and so is the community that surrounds us.

The writer is Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

Category: OPINION

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