By Selwyn Harris
At least one Pahrump school has some positive academic news to share.
Nye County School District NCSD Assistant Superintendent Kim Friel and Department of Student Achievement official Debra Carle said J.G. Johnson Elementary School made Adequate Yearly Progress AYP for the 2011-12 school year during the regular school district board meeting on Tuesday.
AYP is an accountability system for schools, which evaluates if students are meeting federal academic achievement goals.
AYP is determined by English and math test scores taken by the students each year.
In the case of J.G. Johnson for the year 2011-12, English Language Arts ELA test scores improved from 54.20 percent to 65.78 percent.
Math scores improved from 58.79 percent to 66.31 percent.
Principal Jeff Skelton said the AYP goals were reached through hard work and dedication from both students and faculty members during the 2011-12 school year.
“It is awesome to know that our teachers and especially our students work hard to make that status. It is pretty big and pretty huge for us,” he said.
No other elementary school in Pahrump made AYP for 2011-12; however, Manse Elementary School did see modest improvements. ELA scores increased from 55.50 percent to 62.23 percent. Math scores improved from 56.32 percent to 57.08 percent.
Skelton noted that schools that do not meet AYP have the opportunity to try different methods of instruction for students.
“The state comes in and the district looks at different programs or maybe changing the lesson plans. They can bring in intervention specialists to the schools,” he said.
Pahrump Valley High School along with Rosemary Clarke Middle School were also unsuccessful in making AYP last year.
RCMS Principal Tim Wombaker said his school is taking more steps in hopes of getting students to excel.
“We want to get them prepared for the test. We have several incentives to get them going so they can score very well on the test. We give them prizes for passing at high levels or getting perfect scores. We did increase in some areas. We actually increased from 22 to 26 percent in the ESL population, which is tremendous growth. We increased pretty well this past year but it just wasn’t enough.
“We are going to continue to work on math, reading, and science and try to implement as much as we can through tutoring and common core state standards to try to get them to learn what they need to learn not only for the tests, but also for the state standards and that is the key,” he said.
Wombaker did have a message for parents and students regarding the failure to meet the goal.
“It’s difficult, but if the kids are doing as much as they can and work as hard as they can and put out all of their effort on the test, they are doing what they need to be doing. A test is a test and it shows somewhat of what you know but it doesn’t show all that you know and they shouldn’t hang their heads low on not making AYP,” he said.
Though Hafen Elementary School made the mark for the 2010-11 year, the school fell a bit short last year.
Several northern Nye County schools were fortunate enough to meet the 2011-12 AYP standards.
Beatty High School made AYP in both ELA and math but the elementary and middle school did not make AYP in math.
The situation was somewhat similar in Gabbs where both the middle and high school performed well but the elementary failed to make AYP.
ELA testing at Round Mountain Elementary School saw significant improvement from 38.89 percent to 62.00 percent while student math scores went from 50.79 percent to 64.00 percent.
Round Mountain middle and high school split the AYP by passing in ELA but not meeting expectations in math where AYP was not achieved.
In Tonopah, the middle and high school were adequate but Tonopah Elementary failed to meet expectations.
Both Duckwater elementary and middle schools were adequate as was Amargosa Elementary School, which made AYP on both tests.
Amargosa Middle School was successful in the math category but did not pass muster on the English portion.
Carle said if a school does not meet AYP, the distinction can be appealed to the state level.
“Every year I do appeals and state gives us criteria of what we can appeal or not. I look at the data and if I see something wrong, I can average it and lots of times they grant the appeals,” she said.
It takes roughly two years for a school to make AYP.
If the school does not make the grade, it is determined by the U.S. Department of Education that the school will receive an In Need of Improvement NI designation where the school must take the necessary steps for improvement.
To be removed from the NI designation the school must meet AYP for two straight years in the same testing areas from where it had previously failed.
According to the Nevada Department of Education, a school’s AYP performance is determined on various indicators including student participation and academic achievement.
Participation Rates PR denote the percentage of students in the school who actually took the tests.
The rates are then evaluated to learn if at least 95 percent of the students participated.
In Nevada, Average Daily Attendance ADA is also used as an additional indicator for elementary and middle schools.
The ideal goal for ADA is at least 90 percent, while graduation rates based on ninth grade students are used as the other indicator for high schools.
The target goal for graduation rate is 50 percent according to the district.
Another aspect of AYP is what’s known as Annual Measurable Objectives. AMO’s
AMO’s represent the percentage of students that must score at least proficient or higher on Criterion Referenced Tests CRT’s which include writing and high school proficiency exams.
If a school does not meet the AMO target goal, officials undertake what’s known as a “Safe Harbor” analysis to determine if the school has made substantial improvement.
Carle said J.G. Johnson’s AYP status is a very positive move in the right direction.
“It is something that we look for. It means we are progressing and we have made improvements from years past. Anytime a school can make AYP, that is a positive thing,” she said.