District makes the grade on adequate yearly progress
Preliminary state assessment scores for Basehor-Linwood students are in and administrators are once again pleased with the results.
Adequate yearly progress, or AYP, the state's required improvement for schools in reading and math each year, is determined by assessments taken each spring students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11. AYP went into effect as a part of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act and each state's board of education sets achievement goals progressively higher each year with the goal of having each child at 100 percent proficiency by the 2013-14 school year.
"These are still preliminary, but it looks like we made AYP in all grades, all subjects and all subgroups," Sandy Guidry, director of curriculum and instruction said.
For a school to meet AYP, students must meet or exceed the state's target percentage in reading and math. Each building in a district must make AYP for the entire district to make AYP.
All grade levels were well above the 2008 state goal in reading, which was to have 75.6 percent of elementary and middle school students scoring in the "meets standard" or above range and 72 percent for high school students.
The 2008 math goal of 73.4 percent of elementary and middle school students and 64.6 percent of high school students scoring in the "meets standard" or above range was also met.
The Basehor-Linwood School District has never had a problem meeting these goals, Guidry said. In fact they are usually greatly surpassed, which means several grade levels and schools in the district receive additional recognition by the state with a Standard of Excellence award.
The requirement for the award is a minimum of 25 percent of students in the "exemplary" or highest achievement range and a maximum of 5 percent in the "academic warning" or lowest achievement range. An equation is used to determine an index score for each grade level and building Standard of Excellence.
"We've never not made AYP, but this year we've done better with Standard of Excellence," Guidry said.
All buildings in the district received Standard of Excellence in reading and four out of five received the honor in math.
The largest improvement was seen at Basehor-Linwood High School.
"Reading climbed eight percentage points and they did the same in math," Guidry said. "Getting 90 percent of your kids proficient in math at the junior level is difficult, so it's exciting to see that."
A graduation rate of 99.2 percent for high school students and an attendance rate for kindergarten through eighth grade students of 95.3 percent, well above the state's requirement of 75 percent and 90 percent respectfully, also contributed to the district's achievement of AYP.
With the state standards increasing each year, how does the district continue to make AYP year after year? Guidry said there are a variety of factors that allow students to continually improve scores from the preparation to the way the tests are administered.
Special courses at BLHS called reading and math standards, an online program provided by the state and focused seminar all prepare the students for these assessments throughout the school year.
On the elementary level, differentiated instruction and formative tests are used to determine where individual students need the most help and make sure they receive that help.
"Now when we get results from assessments, it tells us specifically what a student knows and what they don't know," Guidry said. "The teachers have really done a good job targeting those kids that need extra attention."
The almost complete switch to computerized assessments from the traditional fill-in-the-bubble with a No. 2 pencil paper method, combined with students' comfort level with the technology has test anxiety down to a minimum, Guidry said, which is another key to higher scores.
"Assessments are so different now," she said. "They're formative, they guide instruction. Now they are just part of the learning process."
While BLHS is being praised for its assessment scores this year, ACT scores are another story.
The composite ACT score, a college entrance exam usually taken at the end of the junior year or beginning of senior year, was 21.6 this year, compared to last year's score of 21.8.
"Twenty two is the state average, so we're a little below," Guidry said.
On top of ACT prep courses offered to students on a volunteer basis, in an effort to raise scores, the district will begin offering ACT Online Prep, which will allow teachers in each of the core classes to administer tests and see where each individual student needs improvement.
Two pre-ACT tests known as EXPLORE, taken in eighth or ninth grade and PLAN, taken during a student's sophomore year, will also be offered to help identify problem areas and allow students to work on those before taking the ACT later on in high school.
On the bright side, the number of students who took the ACT went up about 8 percent to 81 percent, which is higher than the state average of 74 percent. Guidry said the increased awareness of the ACT among students is definitely a plus, and while the goal is to bump up scores to at least the state average, the district does not want to reduce the number of students who choose to take the ACT.
"We just encourage kids to look at a four-year college or a two-year - anything beyond high school," Guidry said. "We don't want to counsel students away from the ACT."
The ACT also measures the likelihood of students passing core college courses, which also fared well for Basehor-Linwood students who scored above the state and national average.
This may reflect another one of the district's pushes - encouraging students to enroll in more challenging classes.
"We know that the more rigor that occurs in high school, of course, the better they're going to score on the ACT," Guidry said. "Many students will take just what's required to keep a GPA strong, but there are courses beyond that, that would increase ACT scores. It's better to take harder classes and get better ACT scores than protect a GPA. We offer the courses, but we're going to need to encourage more students to enroll in them."