Anderson schools adjust to new standards after NCLB waiver

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By Meaghan Downs

The Department of Education granted Kentucky its request on Feb. 9 for a No Child Left Behind waiver, and school districts like Anderson County now need to adjust to a new state assessment system for educational standards.
The state’s new Unbridled Learning Accountability Model, as outlined through Senate Bill 1, focuses on meeting one Average Measureable Objective or AMO instead of the many separate learning targets required with the old assessment and accountability system.
“We had to make a lot of preparations to go on and be ready,” Sharon Jackman, Anderson County’s instructional supervisor, said, of establishing the new assessment model in curriculum and testing.
The school district has been preparing for the possibility of being accepted for the NCLB waiver for months, having received an outline of KDE’s new standards model in October 2011.
The main difference, Jackman said, will be the focus on just one target as opposed to 10-13 different targets that a district must meet.
This past September, the Anderson County school district failed to meet its NCLB standards for the second year in a row, but made improvements in reading and math.
In the nine years that the district had been regulated by NCLB, Anderson County schools had met 100 percent of objectives four times: 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009.
“The old accountability system was mainly achievement, and now it’s going to be multi-faceted,” she said.
The new model is more defined in what educators can communicate as learning targets to their students, Jackman and superintendent Sheila Mitchell said, either through online “snapshots,” or by posting targets in classrooms.
“We know exactly what each grade level is expected to accomplish,” Jackman said.
Each school will receive a score based on a calculation that weighs achievement, gap, growth, college/career readiness and graduation rate scores. The overall district will also receive a point total based on the same components.
Eventually, Mitchell and Jackman said, program reviews and performance reviews for educators and administrators will be added into the district’s overall score. Programs that will be reviewed this year, but not officially measured include writing, arts and humanities, and practical living/career studies.
Several staff members from Anderson County are participating in a pilot program to determine the validity of these performance reviews, Mitchell said.
Each individual student will also be expected to make the equivalent of a full year’s progress.
A student’s growth will be measured based upon calculation of three standard deviations, with certain underperforming schools facing state consequences depending on where they fall on the standard deviation curve.
Mitchell and Jackman said although the formula is complex, and they’re unsure how it will impact the district, they hope that the new assessment model will be an improvement.
“We hope that it’s more effective,” Mitchell said.
The district will offer an educational public forum about the new standards and assessment model on March 22 at 6:30 p.m.