‘Not an accurate measure of a school’s success’
“If you score the standard of excellence, you did a good job,” USD 398 superintendent Rex Watson said. “If you don’t get the standard of excellence, it does not mean you did not do well.”
Watson gave a hypothetical example of two third grade classes with 20 students. In one, the students were spread around the four levels of the State Assessment test. One student was in the lowest level, the academic warning, and five students were in exemplary.
In the other example Watson showed a class with two students on academic warning and the other 18 students scoring exemplary.
“Which class would you rather be in?” he asked.
The second class did not meet a standard of excellence because two students in a 20 student class is 10 percent, higher than the five percent allowed.
“I wouldn’t make a comparison between schools in standard of excellence,” Watson said
USD 398 received the fewest number of standard of excellence awards of any school district in Marion County. Among the three schools in the district, four classes received a standard of excellence among three separate tests — 27 opportunities, a .148 average.
The district did exceed Adequate Yearly Progress in reading and math. The district had 95.7 percent of students score proficient in reading, with 94.5 percent of students receiving free and reduced lunches meeting scoring proficient. In math, 82.6 percent of district scored proficient with 86 percent of students on free or reduced priced lunches.
The second year consecutively, the mark took the district off the improvement list.
Standard of excellence and AYP are scored differently, even though the two measures are both based off state assessment tests. Standard of excellence factors in the percentage of students who score exemplary, one of five levels of scoring and the percentage of students on academic warning.
For grades seven and eight, there is more forgiveness with students who can score bellow proficient, 10 percent. To reach the standard of excellence, 20 percent of reading tests and 25 percent of math tests must score exemplary.
For grades three through six, the standard for reading and math is 25 percent of students must score exemplary and only 5 percent can score in the academic warning zone.
For high school, only 15 percent of students need to score exemplary in both math and reading. In reading 10 percent is the limit of academic warning scores and the low mark for math is 15 percent.
“You can miss by one (percentage) point and not make standard of excellence,” Watson said. “It’s different in every grade level in every subject area.”
Peabody-Burns Junior High School did the best of any school for standard of excellence. With the seventh and eighth grade reaching standards of excellence in reading, students earned a building-wide standard of excellence. Reading was USD 398’s best subject with the Peabody-Burns High School juniors, from 2011, also reaching the standard of excellence in reading.
The only USD 398 class to record a standard of excellence in math was last year’s juniors.
“Math was not an area where we performed as well,” Watson said.
Of the three grade levels involved — fourth, seventh, and 11th — no USD 398 class received a standard of excellence in science.
Watson also said that a USD 398 class received a standard of excellence when the school did not meet AYP in 2009.
Standard of excellence also does not take into account factors like special education students and students receiving free and reduced lunches. Watson said Peabody has the highest percentage of students with free lunches of any district in the county, 43.6 percent.
Peabody-Burns Elementary School, which did not receive a standard of excellence for 2011, has been the school in the district that has been hit hardest by budget cuts over the past three years. The school has cut from two teachers per grade to one.
“I’ve never seen the faculty as stressed in 20 years at Peabody,” PBES principal Ken Parry said in March. “Every time you let someone go, you affect who’s left. Someone has to pick up the pieces.”
Overall, Watson was not worried about the district based on standards of excellence.
“This is basically a blue ribbon or a happy sticker for a program that existed before No Child Left Behind,” Watson said.