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AYP provides moving target

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By John Barnhart

The fact that two elementary schools failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) became a subject for discussion at last week's county school board meeting. District 2 School Board Member Talbot Huff asked that it be added to the agenda as an information item.

Dr. Bobbie Johnson, assistant superintendent of schools, had some good news and some bad news for the school board.

"We did not make AYP as a school division," she said, relating the bad news.

The good news is that school scores on the tests went up this past school year. The problem is that the AYP benchmarks also went up. The AYP benchmarks are a moving target, increasing each year, and will ultimately require a 100 percent pass rate in all subgroups by 2014. Johnson said that there are 32 indicators under NCLB and Bedford County's schools only missed one or two of them.

"We've got an interesting year ahead of us," Johnson told the school board.

One of the subgroups under NCLB are black students, but Johnson noted that NCLB doesn't count 47 percent of Bedford County's black students when deciding whether schools meet AYP progress. That's because black students comprise too small a group in many schools to be counted.

After Dr. Johnson's presentation, District 7 School Board Member Debbie Hoback commented that she believes that progressively fewer schools will meet AYP as 2014 approaches.

"I think it will change because there will be an onslaught," said District 1 School Board Member Joy Wright.

Extended Work Plan

School board members received a report on the extended work plan (EWP), now in its third year. The plan's purpose was to use retired teachers with a current valid Virginia teaching license for long term substitutes. According to Dr. James Blevins, the plan provides a pool that lets them know who is available for long term substitutes.

According to Tim Parker, the school division's director of human resources, it's difficult to fill long term substitute positions in math, science and special education.

Last year, new rules went into effect. A plan participant is limited to a maximum of 20 work days per year and an assignment must be for at least five consecutive days. The average daily wage was reduced from $504 to $253 and the $2,500 allowance for group health insurance was eliminated. If a long term assignment lasts beyond 20 days, the substitute gets the EWP rate for the first 20 and the long term substitute daily rate of $128 for the remainder.

Last year, 30 retirees participated in the plan, down from 37 in the previous school year and Parker anticipates 40 in the plan in the coming school year. The program's cost went down. In the 2006-2007 school year, the school division paid $469,819 in EWP wages. This past year, it paid $60,475.

Gifted Education

The state department of education has adopted new regulations on gifted education which Margaret Turley, who oversees the program for Bedford County's schools, said is an improvement.

There will be some changes that Bedford County will have to adjust to. Currently, the school division does evaluation tests in the fall and spring for students referred by their teachers. The tests are machine scored by a company in Texas and it takes between six and 10 weeks to get results back. The new rules create a 60 business day window for a determination following a teacher referral.

Selecting students for gifted education is based on two tests, (the student must have a combined score that puts him in the 90th percentile, or higher), grads and a teacher recommendation. However, Turley said that any student who wants in an advanced class, and is willing to work, is welcome. They also provide advanced classes for students who are above their grade level in a subject.

"If a student reads above grade level, we provide instruction above grade level," she said.

Another change puts gifted education plans solely under local control. Previously the state board of education has required localities to submit a five-year plan to it for approval. However, the state attorney general has ruled that the state board of education has no authority to require this.

A copy of the new regulations is available in each school's office. It is also on Bedford County Public Schools' Web site.

Student Advisory Committee

The school board formally voted to chose the members of the 2008-2009 Student Advisory Committee. These are student representatives from each high school and middle school. It will meet periodically during the school year and advise the school board on student concerns. District 6 School Board Member Shirley McCabe and District 3 School Board Member Talbot Huff went over 26 applications and chose the 13 members, which the school board accepted. All schools have two representatives, except for Bedford Science and Technology Center (BSTC). This was because they only got one application from BSTC.

The committee members are as follows:

? Staunton River Middle School

Clarissa Whitehead

Kyrstin Bruce

? Bedford Middle School

Jeffrey Seals

Michelle Cox

? Forest Middle School

Lauren Skelly

Andrea McConkey

? BSTC

Ernest Cook

? Staunton River High School

Sarah Zimmerman

Lesley St. Clair

? Jefferson Forest High School

Matthew Carpenter

David Jackson

? Liberty High School

Kenzie VanDerwerker

Christine Overstreet

School Board Member Mickey VanDerwerker, who represents the city, abstained from the vote approving the committee recommendations because her daughter was on the list.