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ECHS placed on failing schools list

County school officials said the list is based on invalid test assessment

Escambia County High School is on the Alabama State Board of Education’s failing school list again, but county school officials said Jan. 25 that the list is based on an invalid test assessment.

“I feel like that this list is based on a test that was deemed invalid by the (Alabama) state department of education and the federal government, but yet we’re still using that as the single measuring stick that has landed Escambia County High School on this list,” ECHS Principal Dennis Fuqua said.

The Alabama State Department of Education’s failing schools list is based on 2017 test results in math and reading from the ACT Aspire test. The list includes the bottom 6 percent of all schools in the state. Since the administration of last year’s test, the state voted to discontinue using it as a measuring stick to assess schools.

Superintendent John Knott said the test is administered to students in grades 3-8, and to sophomores in high school. This year’s results are based on last year’s sophomore class.

“As the superintendent of the Escambia County School System, I have no confidence in this test being an accurate depiction of our academic achievement in our schools,” Knott said. “The ACT Aspire test was created as a formative measure of where your students are on their journey on reaching the goal for the ACT when they take it in high school.

“It didn’t measure and take into account what we’re teaching at the appropriate grade or skill level,” he added.

This is the second year in a row that ECHS has been placed on the failing schools list.

Since 2016, the Atmore school has implemented several programs to help in the effort to get off of the list.

Fuqua said the school started a math initiative that provides professional development for teachers, an instructional coach and after-school tutoring.

“We have made strides at Escambia County High School, and my biggest argument is that with this failing list that legislatures are deeming schools with, you’re labeling our students,” he said. “That’s my biggest issue with the whole thing. It’s hard for me to sit idly by and say that you can label this student in this manner.”

Assistant Superintendent Beth Drew said no matter how high the achievement the school achieves; it could still make the bottom 6 percent, based on the test.

“There will always be a bottom 6 percent,” she said.

Knott said the school system is in favor of an assessment that measures all areas of school, including students’ extracurricular activities, sports involvement.

“We want an assessment system in place that measures the mastery of the standards and skills that are being taught and are required to teach,” he said. “It doesn’t take into consideration graduation rates, it doesn’t take into consideration what we’re doing as far as career preparedness programs. It doesn’t take attendance or other activities we’re doing into account. In my opinion, it’s a misrepresentation of what our students’ achievements are.”