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Officials explain why all schools dropped a grade



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August 29, 2012 - Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. James Schwarz shared the disappointing results of the latest Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) and yearly report card issued for Oxford Schools.

Assessed on its proficiency in language arts and math, the Oxford district as a whole met AYP for the 2011-12 school year.

At the same time, however, all schools received a lower mark on their report card than the previous year. What's more, two schools in the Oxford district did not meet AYP standards.

The drop in report card grades hit all schools uniformly, lowering each report card by a single letter grade. All elementaries in the district Clear Lake, Daniel Axford, Lakeville, Leonard, and Oxford received a 'B' on the report card, while the middle and high schools got a 'C.'

All district schools except for Crossroads for Youth and the Oxford Virtual Academy made AYP.

The drop was expected after the new "cut" scores narrowed the margin of what is considered proficient on the state assessment tests (MME, MEAP), Schwarz said.

In addition to the newer target, the report card dip results from a recalculation of test scores once the waiver from No Child Left Behind standards was granted to Michigan last month.

Though the lowered report card grades were expected, the two absences from AYP standards were surprising.

In the case of OVA (Oxford Virtual Academy), Schwarz explained that the downgrade resulted after some students were incorrectly coded as home schoolers. The absence of these students from OVA enrollment placed the virtual school beneath the 95 percent of students the State requires each school to test --despite the fact that the students were tested.

In short, OVA's omission from the AYP rolls is a result, not of student performance on the yearly test, but rather from the State's misperception of who took the test at all.

Schwarz took the matter up with State administrators, asking if some accommodation could be made for such clerical anomalies. The State was unsympathetic to Schwarz's case, however, and offered no revision opportunity, instructing him instead "to do a better job of checking your student answer sheets before you send them in," he paraphrased.

As for CFY, 2012 is the first year they did not meet AYP. In previous years, CFY was not held accountable for the test scores of students arriving from other districts. Typically the stay for a CFY student is less than six months, but this past year a single student was retained at CFY for three consecutive marking periods. As a result, the entire CFY program was "reflected as not making AYP," Schwarz explained.

Faced with this arbitrary judgment, Schwarz looked at the CFY rosters to determine which other students might extend their stay beyond the average four to six months. He discovered there will be four students retained longer than usual over the next school year, and thus place CFY at risk of not making AYP again. "Conceivably, our AYP score for Crossroads will rely on the performance of four kids," Schwarz said.

Why is CFY suddenly vulnerable to these assessment measures? As Schwarz explained, "as the (student's) court placement ends, we have several students whose parents don't want them back in the home, and so Crossroads will take them and they can remain here at Crossroads as a foster child."

To head off this trouble, Schwarz approached the school of origin for these longer-term students, and may have worked out a solution. If approved by the State, Oxford will enter a cooperative with that school.

"If they agree to take those three students' test scores back, and their foundation allowance as well (approximately $7,000 per student) the entire Crossroads facility will be held harmless with AYP and State report Card markings."

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Donald Turner
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