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Hertford County Schools improve AYP

WINTON – At no time over the past seven years have more than two public schools within the Hertford County public education system met the annual AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress).

That all changed during the 2008-09 academic year.

According to the preliminary numbers released by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Hertford County Public Schools (HCPS) saw a dramatic turnaround in 08-09 where three of its seven schools met AYP.

The North Carolina State Board of Education is expected to approve those numbers on Aug. 6.

“We are very pleased with what we were able to accomplish in regards to the AYP numbers this past school year,” HCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Basham said. “But we will not rest on those numbers…our quest to make Hertford County Schools the best they can be has only begun.”

Dr. Basham made those comments on Wednesday, two days after the state’s preliminary results were given to the Hertford County Board of Education during their Monday night meeting. It was at that meeting where Dr. Basham, who had previously announced his retirement, formally handed over the reigns of the local school district to newly hired HCPS Superintendent Dr. John Fahey.

“We’re not planning on backing up,” Dr. Basham said. “I foresee a bright future for our school district under Dr. Fahey’s leadership.”

To prove how far HCPS has progressed in regards to previous AYP history, one doesn’t have to look very far.

In both 2008 and 2007, HCPS registered a zero on the AYP scale as none of the schools within the system met the annual standard. In the majority of cases, none of the HCPS schools even came close, most falling below the 70 percent level of meeting their individual targets.

The last time any one school met AYP was 2006. There, Bearfield Primary met 13 of 13 target goals in becoming the county’s lone AYP representative.

In 2003 and 2005, HCPS recorded zeros in the number of AYP schools. In 2004, two met the standard – Ahoskie Elementary and Bearfield Primary.

Things were so bad in 2003 that Hertford County High School only met one of 15 AYP targets (6.7 percent of its goal).

Rising from depths of despair

Fast forward to 2009. While it remains clear that HCPS has not yet reached the pinnacle of success, the school district is halfway there.

Of its six schools (C.S. Brown Student Development Center was added to the list this year), three met all of its AYP target goals. Those reaching that level were:

Ahoskie Elementary (21-of-21 goals);

Bearfield Primary (15-of-15); and

Hertford County Middle (21-of-21).

Meanwhile, both Riverview Elementary (15-of-17 targets) and C.S. Brown (2-of-3) were close to meeting the standard.

As for Hertford County High School, those students met nine of 15 target goals (60 percent), marking its best showing since 2007.

Hertford County Early College High School remains as a special evaluation school, thusly its AYP status is not yet available.

At Monday’s board meeting, Ron Lane, HCPS Director of Testing and Accountability Services, emphasized that AYP is “an all or nothing deal.”

“A school must meet all targets to meet AYP,” Lane noted. “When we miss any of those targets, it allows us to identify the areas where we need the most help.”

Dr. Basham echoed Lane’s comments dealing with HCPS “playing by the rules” when it comes to establishing the sub-groups that comprise the AYP targets.

“We don’t play games with the statistics,” Dr. Basham said. “The guidelines say that you must have 40 students or more to have a sub-group. We had at least 40 students in each of our sub-groups. We didn’t dilute our numbers…those numbers are what they are and we stand by them.”

Dr. Basham said the lowest number of sub-groups (targets) was 13. With the exception of C.S. Brown (a school with limited enrollment), all schools within the local district exceeded that bare minimum.

Even those not meeting the AYP standard drew praise from the Hertford County Board of Education.

“We are very proud of our three schools who met the AYP targets,” board chairman Ronald G. Baker said. “We also recognize those schools that didn’t make AYP. “You showed great improvement and effort.”

As far as to what contributed to the HCPS turnaround, Dr. Basham pointed to two programs that are producing results – Reading First and the adoption of a new math series.

“Reading First allows our students to build vocabulary skills,” Dr. Basham said. “As far as our new math series is concerned, it challenges our students by using worded problems that require reasoning rather than just the basic math skills.”

Dr. Basham also praised the evolvement of “evaluation teaching” practices.

“Evaluation teaching is the highest level of instruction,” he stated. “It helps students think things through and come up with the reasoning they used to solve a problem.”

He stressed that HCPS has evolved into a higher level of teaching and learning.

“The teachers have responded to the way we want things done,” Dr. Basham said. “Our teachers have the skills to pass this knowledge, these learning skills, to our students. Now we are seeing the results of that effort with our improved AYP scores.

“Our principals are also to be commended,” he added. “If you have good principals, you have good teachers. If you have good teachers, you have good students. It’s all of us together making this work.”

In closing, Dr. Basham said the work has only just begun.

“In AYP, you must show improvement two years in a row in order to be taken off any list of school districts not meeting state or federal education guidelines,” he said. “We showed improvement this year and are proud of that fact. Now we have to do it again.”