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Schools Expected To Pass Va. Test

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The Farmville Herald

CUMBERLAND – Cumberland School Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin announced the preliminary results for the 2012-2013 State Accreditation and Federal Accountability reports during September's School Board meeting. The preliminary results indicate that all three schools will be fully accredited by the state, but that the Elementary and Middle School will most likely not meet the federal government's Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO).

The Virginia Department of Education announced in June that Virginia schools no longer need to comply with the benchmarks established by No Child Left Behind after United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan approved a waiver submitted by the state Board of Education. In the past, Virginia schools received Adequate Yearly Progress reports, which VDOE described as “arbitrary and unrealistic” in a recent press release.

The old Annual Yearly Progress benchmarks had been set with the goal of all students demonstrating grade-level proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2014. Now, state schools are judged according to federal Annual Measurable Objectives.

The new AMO benchmarks are set with the goal of reducing the failure rate in reading and mathematics by 50 percent by 2019. The AMOs also take into account achievement in specific demographic subgroups, while the previous federal reports did not.

Dr. Griffin announced that the reports were not final because they are “still working on the math.” In the preliminary report, the high school did meet federal AMOs. The elementary and middle school did not. “However,” Dr. Griffin was quick to say, “we are not a priority or focus school, which is a good thing, because with that comes a lot of strings attached.”

The new federal AMO reports determine priority and focus school standing by a school's relative success in comparison to all other state schools. Priority schools are five percent of Title I schools in Virginia with the lowest overall student achievement. Focus schools are the 10 percent of state Title I schools with the lowest achievement of students in three subgroups.

According to VDOE, the three subgroups, or Proficiency Gap Groups, have historically “had difficulty meeting the commonwealth's achievement standards.” The Proficiency Gap Groups are: 1- students with disabilities, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students, regardless of race and ethnicity; 2- African-American students, not of Hispanic origin; 3- Hispanic students, of one or more races. Gap Groups 2 and 3 also include those students that were already deemed to be a part of Gap Group 1. For example, a Hispanic student who also has a disability would be considered a member of both Gap Group 1 and 3.

Priority and Focus schools are subject to state-approved and monitored school-improvement interventions.

VDOE plans to report state accreditation ratings later this month.

Advisory Committees

The board voted to approve the advisory committees and members for the upcoming school year. Board Chairwoman Ginger Sanderson, District One, was excited that “community involvement on those committees has significantly increased” since she began. This year there will be a total of nine committees: Career and Technical Education, School Health/Family Life Education, Special Education, Federal Programs, Technology, Talented and Gifted, Capital Improvement, Comprehensive Plan and School Safety. Sanderson suggested that the school had possibly kept more committees than are required by the state.

Board Goals

Sanderson commented on board members' interaction with local legislators, as set out by the board goals. She was pleased that the board had maintained an active presence throughout last year's budgetary process and over the summer. However, she reminded members that the budgetary process begins again in October, and encouraged them to keep “making sure our voices are heard.”

Board Comments

The overriding theme of the board member comments was enthusiasm over a smooth start to the school year.

Board member Eurika Tyree, District Three, commented on the energy she was seeing in the High School and Middle School this year from the students, faculty, teachers, parents and even the custodians: “Everyone seems excited and energetic and have a lot of positive things to say about … the opening of the school and how things have come along this far. So continue to do the good work, principals. Continue to show that moral support to your staff. Keep up the energy with the kids. And if you do that, I know you'll be exhausted by the end of the school year.”

Sanderson encouraged everyone to continue following the website, www.cucps.k12.va.us, and twitter feed, @CuCPS. She was very proud of how frequently they were updated and reminded the community that with these resources “we can find out anything we need to know about our schools. And it is a phenomenal way to make sure we are demonstrating 21st Century skills for all.” She was also impressed with the excitement she had seen in the Middle, High and Elementary Schools.

The next School Board meeting is scheduled for October 15, the third Monday of the month, since the second Monday falls on Columbus Day.