Turnaround Program Continues

Published 4:41 pm Thursday, March 14, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD – The clock on the third and final year of the high school's turnaround effort is winding down and a Cambridge Education consultant on hand for the March 6 school board meeting presented a performance measure status report.

With more than two months remaining in the current school year, data for the last year in the turnaround program is still not nailed down and a final analysis is incomplete.

Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith noted that for several points, data has not been received for the year – highlighting SOLs and a teacher climate survey.

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“That could likely change your assessment on some of the individual items in the contract as to whether they are fully or partially met, for example,” Dr. Smith commented to Cambridge Consultant Dr. Harold Lawson. “So would it be safe to say that Cambridge will do a follow-up presentation after that data is received so the board has a clear picture of three years of progress?…We understand with the timing of your presentation right now…we don't have all that information.”

Dr. Lawson agreed, noting, “The information is just not available right now as you say.

School officials, following the superintendent's recommendation, specifically agreed to ask for a final detailed report from Cambridge on progress at the end of three years with all data collected and incorporated into the assessment on each of the individual items in an attachment of the original contract.

“I don't think the final report was stipulated, but this would simply confirm the board's request to Cambridge for a final report,” Dr. Smith said.

School Board member Dr. Timothy Corbett asked if it would be an additional cost; Dr. Smith responded “No.”

Prince Edward's High School has been in the turnaround mode since 2010. Of the 128 Title I schools, the high school ranked in the lowest five percent among those authorized, but which do not receive Title I funds and was designated in the turnaround program that year. The criteria weighed for the designation was the academic achievement of all students in reading and math and that a school has not reduced its failure rate in reading/language arts and/or mathematics by 10-15 percent each year for the past two years.

School officials were tasked with certain criteria with the designation and selected Cambridge Education as their lead turnaround partner. The firm has been assisting the school and provided regular reports at the school board meetings.

Federal funds, totaling about $500,000 in each of three budgeted years, fuel the turnaround effort and are aimed at helping the school to improve. Those funds come to an end in the current budget year.

The school board previously agreed to extend Cambridge's consultant's work this spring with funds coming from the turnaround grant.

“When the question was asked about their progress and wanting to be assured that we weren't paying additional funds for them to complete the same thing we already paid them to do, I asked Dr. Lawson to pull this presentation together to give the board an understanding based on the specific items in the contract for which they are accountable as to where their progress is right now,” Dr. Smith told the school board.

Still, School Board Chairman Russell Dove asked about a final report. That, it was noted, probably won't be available until the June or July meeting. They are expected to have a teacher climate survey in early to mid May. Spring SOL tests will be held in May as well.

School officials will look for a final report and, as Dr. Corbett cited, they will look to have number figures for those areas partially met.

“Another reason to look at the third year of data is that there might be an item or two where it looks like the trend would suggest that they fully met it, but if the scores on a particular test go down instead of up, that would change their assessment of whether they fully met that individual item or not,” Dr. Smith commented. “So that's another reason-just so the board has a complete accurate picture with all the relevant data.”

Dr. Smith suggested that they make the request to Cambridge, noting that they could ask for June or July if all of the data is available.

Board members also indicated an interest in looking at specific numbers.

An Interim Report

A report presented to school board members, though minus third year data, touched on a wide range of goals and areas. Among the highlights:

*In the first year of the contract, annual Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets for student achievement were to be met in reading and math by all student subgroups in the “All Students” category, at a minimum in “safe harbor.” While the targets were not met in the first year, they were met in the second year.

*In the second and third years of the contract, AYP targets for student achievement were to be met in reading, math and graduation by all student subgroups in the “all students” category. The objective, according to the report, was met in the second year. The state accreditation target rate for graduation was 70 percent and the high school's rate came in at 71.96 percent.

*The difference between the high performing subgroup and each other subgroups in English, math, science and social studies was to be reduced annually by 50 percent as measured by SOLs. The objective was deemed to have been partially met, with gap closure varying among subgroups.

*In each year of the contract, the percentage of students achieving pass advanced in English, math, science and social studies was to increase at least five percent. The percentage of students pass advanced (achieving a score greater than 500 on an SOL) increased in English (30-32 percent), declined in math and history and more than doubled in chemistry. It was noted there are new tests in math and history.

*The percentage of students achieving a three, four or five score on Advanced Placement tests (AP) were to increase by at least five percent in each AP subject area taught at the school in each year of the contract. In the first year, the percentage of students increased from 20-30 percent (or a gain of ten percentage points); in the second year, the percentage fell to 25 percent. Dr. Lawson offered that they have made progress, but that it's not where it should be. The school board had earlier discussed tweaking prerequisites for AP courses. Having prerequisites, it was cited, would make a difference.

*The school in each year of the contract was to be fully accredited by the state in English, math, science and social studies; the graduation rate was to be met in the second and third years of the contract. The school became fully accredited in the second year and met the state standard for graduation in the second year.

*By the end of the second year of the contract, the on-time graduation rate was to meet or exceed the AYP target; the graduation index, it was cited, was met through the reduction of the failure rate by at least 10 percent.

*Student behavior was to improve in all school settings as evidenced by a 50 percent reduction in incidents, referrals, and discipline actions referrals. The number of discipline referrals increased from a baseline of 1,085 to 1,855 in the first year and dropped to 1,534 in the second year. It was anticipated that it would be “even better” this year. “We are hopeful,” Dr. Lawson said.

In addition to student performance, the presentation also focused on other areas, including school climate, excellence in teaching and building leadership capacity, having determined objectives were partially or fully met.