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Data presented to support school record

Administrators say pupils' academic progress improves despite AYP test scores results

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County school officials told the School Board on Thursday night that achievement test scores are much stronger than might be assumed by the way the data are interpreted under federal law.

In what he described as the most comprehensive set of test scores ever presented to the board, Greg Drescher, assistant superintendent of public instruction, gave a largely upbeat assessment of the schools' overall scores.

"We have a strong showing in many data areas," he said in a written assessment accompanying the presentation. "Our pass rates on the ... tests have us consistently in the high 80s and 90 percent in all subject areas."

Drescher also pointed to other data not directly related to test scores that showed the county schools performing effectively. For example, the average teacher salary of $47,500 places the county in the middle of eight divisions in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. At the same time, Warren ranked lowest among the same eight divisions for number of school employees -- 97 -- for every 1,000 students. Page County ranked highest with 125.

The numbers favorably impressed board member Joanne Cherefko.

"The taxpayers of Warren County are getting good bang for the buck," Cherefko said.
Warren public school educators, like those in many other parts of the state and nation, have been stung by a procession of bleak headlines about the number of schools designated as failing under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Educators insist the law is rigid and narrow in how it determines the success or failure of schools by test scores.

Drescher and others have contended that excellent overall test scores in many schools are nullified by a requirement that schools also show consistently high numbers in each of six subgroupings of students. Educators have also said that federal benchmarks ratchet upward each year, making it inevitable that more schools classified as acceptable one year will be deemed as failing the next.

While most of the test scores among Warren County students have shown steady improvement over the years, Drescher admitted that the schools continue to struggle with raising the numbers in special education.

Drescher told the board that special education "is the area we most need to work on." He also cited middle school mathematics and division-wide writing scores as concerns.

The division is launching several initiatives this year to raise writing scores, he said. They include requiring schools to report benchmark writing scores to the central office to review their results. Writing instruction will also be a topic for professional development among teachers, he said.

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