The release of state test scores for Washington students has become a back-to-school ritual for schools, school districts and parents.
But with approval in July of Washington’s waiver from some federal provisions tied to those scores, education officials will soon focus on a new method for measuring test-score progress.
Thanks to the waiver, the state is replacing the Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, measurement with the new Annual Measurable Objectives, or AMO.
The state plans to release AMO ratings for every school and school district this month.
What’s the difference?
“AYP had specific sanctions,” said Alan Burke, deputy state school superintendent.
Depending on how far they fell from annual goals, schools were required to send letters to parents notifying them of a school’s AYP status, set aside dollars for tutoring, or provide transportation to a different school in the district if parents in failing schools requested a move.
Those sanctions are gone. AMO simply requires that the state and school districts post their scores and let the community know about them.
After that, Burke said, “it’s left to you, how to handle the shortcomings.”
AYP has drawn both criticism and praise over the years. Because it forced educators to report scores for students in a long list of subgroups – including racial and ethnic groups, low-income kids and special education students – it forced schools to acknowledge academic challenges facing disadvantaged students.
But educators also complained that federal AYP rules set unreachable goals. One of the biggest would have required schools to have 100 percent of their students in every group meet standards by the 2013-14 school year. Even with changes in tests and increasing scores over the years, it was clear the goal would not be met.
More than 1,100 Washington schools and 113 school districts across the state were identified under AYP as “in improvement” based on scores from the 2010-11 school year, according the state superintendent’s office. By the 2013-14 school year, the office predicted, nearly every school and district in the state would have been identified as needing improvement under the old AYP system.
Enter the federal waivers. More than 30 states have received or are close to receiving them.
Washington’s waiver not only gives the state a new measurement system with easier-to-reach goals, it also allows local school districts more flexibility in how they can spend federal education dollars. State educators estimate the waiver will free up to $58 million statewide to address the needs of struggling kids and schools.
The new system will require schools to target spending for schools that fall short under the new grading system. That system will identify categories of schools, known as Priority, Focus and Reward schools.
• Priority schools are among the lowest-scoring 5 percent among high-poverty schools in the state, that also demonstrate a lack of progress over three years. This category includes schools placed on statewide low-achievement lists in previous years, such as the three School Improvement Grant schools in Tacoma. Three Tacoma middle schools – Jason Lee, Giaudrone and Stewart – are entering their final school year as SIG schools.
• Focus schools are among the lowest 10 percent of high-poverty schools in the state, with some of the lowest-performing subgroups over three years.
• Reward schools are classified either as “highest-performing schools” or “high-progress schools,” based on test scores.
Graduation rates for high schools also factor into the three categories. This year, the state has identified schools in all three categories.
Under the new AMO system, schools will be expected to cut their score gaps in half by 2017, using 2011 as a baseline. Each subgroup of students will be measured against itself. Schools are asked to halve the difference between starting percentages of students meeting standard and 100 percent meeting standards.
For example: If a school’s subgroup starts with 60 percent of its students meeting standard in 2011, then that subgroup would need 80 percent meeting standard by 2017.
These are Pierce County schools listed by the state in three categories for the current school year.
2012-13 PRIORITY SCHOOLS
Tacoma School District
Giaudrone Middle School *
Jason Lee Middle School *
Stewart Middle School *
White River School District
Collins Alternative Program (placed on the list due to low graduation rates)
2012-13 FOCUS SCHOOLS
Bethel School District
Centennial Elementary School
Thompson Elementary School
Spanaway Elementary School
Clover Park School District
Tyee Park Elementary School
Lochburn Middle School
Fife School District
Endeavour Intermediate School
Tacoma School District
Boze Elementary School
Mann Elementary School
2012-13 REWARD SCHOOLS
Dieringer School District
Lake Tapps Elementary School
Puyallup School District
Maplewood Elementary School
Stewart Elementary School
Steilacoom School District
Cherrydale Primary School
Sumner School District
Daffodil Valley Elementary School
Liberty Ridge Elementary School
*These Priority schools are School Improvement Grant (SIG) schools that qualified for federal improvement grants based on low test scores in previous years. They are in their third and final year of implementing improvements funding by the grant.