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AYP Scores Don't Give Full Picture

Fewer schools throughout the Charlotte area made adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind this year . . . but that doesn't necessarily mean students performed any worse. Adequate Yearly Progress is, like it sounds, a measure of how much a school grows academically in a year. Last year, those numbers shot up throughout the state. In some cases the number of schools in a district making AYP quadrupled. So what was the game changer? Re-testing. For the first-time last year elementary and middle school students who didn't pass their end-of-grade tests could take another version of the test a week or so later. During that time, students get even more test prep. Last year, 68 percent of CMS schools made AYP, but it would've been 36 percent without the retests. Superintendent Peter Gorman says there was no way CMS could keep up with that so-called improvement. "It was if you have dramatic growth one year, you can be declared as making safe harbor. Well, yeah, you have dramatic growth when you give kids two cracks at the assessment verses one crack at the assessment," Gorman says. This year, 58 percent of CMS schools made AYP. That's a 10-point drop from last year. Rowan-Salisbury and Gaston County Schools saw similar drops. Fifty-one percent of Rowan schools made AYP this year. In Gaston County, it was 59 percent. Iredell-Statesville Schools, Hickory Public Schools and Cabarrus County Schools saw their percentages drop 25 points or more. Fifty-four percent of Iredelle-Statesville Schools made AYP, 40 percent of Hickory schools and 35 percent of Cabarrus schools. Cabarrus Superintendent Barry Shepherd says the way AYP is set up some high-performing schools didn't even make the grade. "Yes, we're concerned that the number of schools that made AYP has reduced and reduced somewhat, when you look deeper into the data you see that those schools are still succeeding at a high rate," Shepherd says. Union County Schools was the only district in the Charlotte area in which the number of schools making AYP held steady. Eighty-one percent of Union's schools made AYP.