ECMS needs your participation

Published 6:05 am Monday, March 28, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
If Escambia County Middle School can't get 95 percent participation in the SAT-10 the state may have to do some reorganization.
"Under No Child Left Behind, accountability has taken on a whole new form," Escambia County's federal programs director Mary Beth Powell said. "There are several indicators they look at and one is participation. They must have 95 percent in all categories. It's really important that all children are there for the test."
According to Principal Herbert Payne the test results could be thrown out if there is not better participation this year than last year.
"At least 95 percent of students in each category have to take the test in order for them to even consider our results," Payne said. "If 95 percent don't take the test then basically they throw it out. You are severely penalized if 95 percent of the students don't participate in the test. That includes children on free and reduced lunches and all those other categories.
"Last year we came up at 94 percent and it showed up on our test results as we did not make adequate yearly progress," Payne continued. "Adequate Yearly Progress means that the average has to score at the fifth Stanine or better."
ECMS is the only school in the county currently on Title I status.
"They're in Title I school improvement," Powell said. "We have two consultants from the state department helping them."
ECMS has basically been put on an alert status as a result of inconsistent test scores.
"If you look at their test scores they'll go up a year and come back down; and up and down," Powell said. "Under No Child Left Behind, they have to come up two years in a row among all subgroups."
The state tests a large number of indicators and test scores are just one. Since the scores have been inconsistent the state came in last year to try to help the situation.
"If they have 18 indicators, half of them are attendance indicators," Powell said. "They have to have (a certain percentage of attendance) overall and they have to have it among every subgroup."
The subgroups are made up of racial groups, special needs and special education children, separate genders and other demographics. Even if ECMS has 95 percent of the school's total population in attendance on SAT-10 test days, it will still count against them if those demographic groups are not represented by the same percentage
"It is important those children are there to take the test," Powell said.
Powell said that with all the work the teachers at ECMS have been putting in, it is likely the children's scores will improve making attendance really the only thing that could reflect badly on the school.
"The teachers have really been working hard this year and they want to bring up their scores," Powell said. "It would be a shame to bring up their reading and math scores and then not make it because of lack of participation."
Should the school fail in the indicators it would face a restructuring of certain classes and programs.
"They have to do a school improvement plan," Powell said. "The state's goal is for them to improve. We are looking at what they call restructuring and regrouping. We're looking at gender-based in math and we're looking at restructuring fifth and sixth grade to pods."
Pods are similar to self-contained classes in that the children stay with the same group of peers all day, but the children also change classes. The gender-segregated classes are to reduce distractions in a very transitional period in the children's lives.
"A lot of it is middle school," Powell said. "Education is not quite the priority because the children are going through a lot of changes. Separating boys and girls for math has been shown to increase the grades. You have better results because the girls aren't trying to impress the boys and the boys aren't acting silly for the girls."
No matter what happens as a result of this test the school will still be helped by the state.
"We're still going to be on school improvement because we have to do it two years in a row and they will still work with us," Powell said. "We're not the only school in the state that's in Title I improvement, so the state is doing everything it can to help."
As a Title I improvement school, parents were given a chance to place their children in another county school, not under state watch, without having to pay a redistricting fee.
"We offered School Choice," Powell said. "Only two children opted for School Choice. Only Title I schools can offer it. I think the reason so few people took advantage of the program is that they believe, with work, Escambia Middle is a good school. We offer after-school programs and there's a lot available for the children there, and we provide transportation for after-school programs."
Powell believes the school's an asset to the students.
"It's a state-of-the-art school," she said. "We offer everything; art, band, dance, after-school programs and after-school homework programs. We're getting a lot of things done. I think our biggest problem is we have a lot of children that don't take advantage of it."
Title one is a federally funded program where the federal governments give the states extra money to help less fortunate schools.
"'Improving the academic achievement of the disadvantaged, that is what the federal definition is," Powell said. "Your state and local dollars do this and the federal dollars are the icing on the cake. They're extra money. They (the governments) just want that to be a good school."
Payne also wants to promote interest in the test.
"The test is very important and we need for parents to encourage their students to come to school every day and take every portion of the test the first two weeks after spring break," Payne said. "We want to make sure the parents get their children up early enough to eat and make sure they got a good nights rest."

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox