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Area schools failing to meet standards rising

Virginia Department of Education's progress ratings find 22 of 45 making a passing grade

By M.K. Luther -- mkluther@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- The number of area public schools that are failing to meet federal standards is on the rise, according to results released by the Virginia Department of Education.

The department reported the 2009-10 Adequate Yearly Progress ratings for state schools on Thursday. The AYP, based on the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, establishes the level of improvement a school division must reach each year.

This year, for a school to achieve a passing AYP rating, 81 percent of pupils, including the subgroups of white, black, Hispanic, limited English proficiency, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged, must pass the Standards of Learning exams, and 79 percent of the students must pass state mathematics tests.

The AYP benchmarks are raised incrementally each year and will continue to increase annually in an effort to bring all schools closer to the 100 percent pass rate by 2013-14 goal that was originally set by NCLB.

Locally, 22 of the area's 45 public schools made AYP, with some individual schools showing key improvements and others becoming bogged down by the elevated benchmarks.

Three of Warren County's eight public schools made AYP, but E. Wilson Morrison failed in reading and math for two consecutive years.

As a Title I school receiving federal funding for economically disadvantaged pupils, E. Wilson Morrison now must offer public school choice -- the option to attend another county public school that is not categorized as "not in improvement" -- said Director of Administrator Support Greg Drescher.

Warren County High School, A.S. Rhodes and Warren County Middle School made AYP this year.

"As the benchmarks continue to go up, I think we are going to continue to see more of this," Drescher said. "One hundred percent is a wonderful goal but it a tough one to meet."

In Shenandoah County, all three county high schools and Peter Muhlenberg Middle School made AYP this year. However, Ashby-Lee Elementary has failed the same subjects and student subgroups for two consecutive years, and must now offer public school choice, School Superintendent Keith Rowland said. Ashby-Lee provided the option last year, as well, but no pupils chose to participate.

"The increase in the number of schools that did not make AYP reflects the increase in benchmarks," Rowland said.

"What is so difficult for all of us is that the benchmarks continue to rise, and when you get to the this top 80th percentile, it is tough to achieve."

Eight of Frederick County's 18 schools achieved the standard, with six elementary schools, James Wood Middle School and Millbrook High School making AYP. For 2007-08, the pass rate to achieve AYP was 77 percent, as opposed to this year's 79 percent. Fourteen of Frederick County's 18 schools made AYP last year, according to a release issued by the school system.

In Winchester, Daniel Morgan Middle School and John Handley High School failed to meet the AYP, but the middle school pupils have shown great improvement in the past few years, said George Craig, the coordinator of curriculum and instruction for Winchester Public Schools.

"You have to look at where they have been and where they are," Craig said. Three years ago, Daniel Morgan missed AYP by 10 points. This year, that margin is down to 3 points.

All four city elementary schools made AYP, according to the results.

For the first time, a Clarke County elementary school -- D.G. Cooley -- missed AYP, said Matthew Eberhardt, assistant superintendent for instruction.

Clarke County experienced an increase in enrollment in the free and reduced lunch program -- an indicator for the economically disadvantaged subgroup -- causing the county schools to have to report scores for the sector.

The AYP results are available on the Virginia Department of Education Web site at www.doe.virginia.gov.

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