Anniston High School pleased by progress, sees more to be done
by Laura Camper
Aug 09, 2012 | 3714 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston High School. (Anniston Star file photo)
Anniston High School. (Anniston Star file photo)
Anniston High School administrators are celebrating a latter-day educational milestone — the school’s reading proficiency rate improved nearly 22 percentage points to 85.8 percent of students meeting standards in the most recent round of state testing.

That increase allowed the school to make adequate yearly progress in reading under the federal No Child Left Behind Act for the first time in eight years. However, the gain was tempered by a 4 percent drop in the number of students who met state standards in math.

Superintendent Joan Frazier attributes the increase to a number of different strategies the school has implemented to increase reading comprehension among students.

“There is rarely one silver bullet that goes into increasing student achievement,” Frazier said. “I think we were able to develop that combination to increase reading scores.”

The school has been focusing on reading across all subjects. It has increased tutoring and remedial help for students in reading and created student motivation programs. The system also contracted with a school improvement company to provide training to teachers on teaching reading, Frazier said.

Under No Child Left Behind, schools are judged primarily on the results of proficiency tests — at the high school that is the High School Graduation Test, taken in 11th grade. Schools are required to have a minimum percentage of students pass the proficiency tests in reading and math. The percentage required has gradually increased since No Child Left Behind was implemented in 2004 and by 2014 the country’s schools are required to have 100 percent of students pass the proficiency tests.

This past school year, Alabama was one of 33 states that applied for permission, which it received, to temporarily freeze the required percentage to last school year’s level. That meant the state’s high schools needed 92 percent of their students to pass the reading test and 86 percent to pass the math test to make adequate progress.

Anniston High School’s 85.8 percent pass rate in reading didn’t meet the goal, but because the school raised the passage rate by more than 10 percentage points, it is considered to have made adequate progress. High schools are additionally judged in the graduation rate, in which Anniston also made adequate progress, Frazier said.

The school met 12 of its 15 goals, 80 percent, up from last year when the school met 69 percent of its goals, Frazier said.

The results of the annual testing which determines whether schools have made adequate progress under the act are scheduled to be released today by the Alabama Department of Education.

But school systems received their schools’ statuses in advance of the public release.

Anniston Board of Education member William Hutchings offered a hint of Anniston schools’ scores at a candidate forum last week when he had announced the high school’s accomplishment.

“We saw what it needed. It takes time to deal with a situation dealing with test scores,” Hutchings said. “It’s going to get better.”

The school did not reach all its goals. The system lost some ground in its math proficiency testing, dropping from 71 percent of students passing to 67 percent of students passing.

“We have consistently made AYP in math in previous years,” Frazier said. “This year we did not.”

That kept the school from making adequate yearly progress overall.

If a school doesn’t make adequate progress in a subject for two years in a row, it is placed on the school improvement list. Once on the list, the school is required to take designated actions for each year it is on the list. Anniston High School was in its sixth year on the list. Because it made progress in reading — the subject that put it on the list — it is now in delay, a kind of limbo, said Malissa Valdes-Hubert, public information manager for the Alabama Department of Education.

“It means that they’re in the process of pulling themselves out of it,” said Valdes-Hubert. “It’s two years in, two years out.”

Board of Education President Mary Harrington said she is proud of the progress made. When she ran for board of education four years ago, Harrington said, it was all about the kids and her work has helped make the improvement possible. She praised the teachers and administrators at the high school.

“The teachers of course made it happen,” Harrington said. “When we work together, we do what needs to be done.”

Board of Education member Arthur Cottingham noted while the accomplishment is worth celebrating, there is still work to do.

“We’ll celebrate for a moment and go back to work,” Cottingham said.

Anniston City Schools as a system made adequate yearly progress and all the other schools in the system made also made adequate progress in everything with the exception of Tenth Street Elementary, Frazier said.

Tenth Street, like the high school, did not make adequate progress in math.

Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.

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