State targets reading, math

Published 12:46 pm Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hardy Elementary to become ‘focus’ school

By Alyse Stanley

Staff writer

The Virginia Department of Education is clamping down on Hardy Elementary School over math and reading test scores.

The state plans to monitor progress under a new focus school model.

This new classification is for Title I schools that fail to meet federal government standards regarding proficiency gap group pass rates in reading and math. These groups include students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and black and Hispanic students. Only schools with proficiency gap groups scoring in the lowest 10 percent of the state receive this designation.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

A Title I school has a significant percentage of its student population coming from low-income families. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

At Hardy, 71 percent of students passed the reading SOL test — eight percent below the state average, and 11 percent below Isle of Wight County’s, according to the VDOE.

Comparatively, 52 percent of black students, 56 percent of economically disadvantaged students and 11 percent of students with disabilities passed the reading SOL test. Though the school achieved state accreditation in math, several proficiency gap groups’ math scores fell short of the federal requirement, said Susan Goetz, Isle of Wight County schools director of K-12 schools, leadership development and alternative education.

While focus schools are determined by federal standards, the state oversees their progress. Isle of Wight County schools received notice of Hardy’s status in August, said Assistant Superintendent Heather Tuck.

Hardy’s principal, Shante Denson and Goetz met with a VDOE-assigned division liaison once school started. This liaison helped Hardy administrators develop programs and strategies for students at risk of not passing the SOLs.

The VDOE requires focus schools to create division-level and school-level teams to develop and implement a division improvement plan. Hardy was required to create a similar plan as part of its accreditation with warning status, said Goetz, and they were able to use it in both instances.

One difference, however, is VDOE’s plan requires researching data variables to identify problem areas and provide a schedule of interventions.

Using a VDOE-approved data query system, administrators analyze data about their student population — everything from student attendance and grades to discipline reports. This data is reviewed quarterly, and forms the foundation of the division’s improvement plan as it allows educators to see what factors inhibit or support performance in the classroom.  

Currently the division team is studying how proficiency gap groups performed on both reading and math assessments, said Goetz. Administrators are strongly considering adopting a screening tool for reading and math in second or third grade to allow time for remediation in those subject areas prior to SOL testing.

Making sure educators align their curriculum with SOL standards is the top priority of the program, said Tuck. The state is encouraging them to look at lesson planning and assessment among their teachers, said Goetz, particularly concentrating on “unpacking the SOL” by identifying objectives and success criteria.

Checkpoints throughout the year monitored by the state ensure Hardy administrators adhere to their plan.

Still, while the VDOE’s priority may be test scores, Tuck says that, in Isle of Wight, staff members are committed to working on all aspects of a student’s education.

“Our hope is to go beyond the SOL and beyond the SOL test and create a culture of excellence for all children,” Tuck said.

As for the staff at Hardy Elementary, everyone seems “extremely committed” to achieving accreditation next year, said Goetz.

Under state requirements, the school division can only send out notifications of the new focus school designation after Oct. 27 once the state’s revised accreditation statuses are released, said Goetz. {/mprestriction}