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Schools meet federal goals, but brace for different result in 2011

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw Neck schools met this year’s federal education goals, but district and state officials say meeting next year’s goals will be a challenge as the standards continue to rise.

“Obviously, I think it’s going to be very, very difficult,” said David Hammel, principal of Waccamaw High School.

It was one of 13 high schools in the state to make “adequate yearly progress” toward the goals of the federal law known as No Child Left Behind. Those goals include having every student “proficient” in English and math by 2014.

The law required 60 percent of students to meet the standards. Next year the target is 80 percent.

Proficiency for students in grades three through eight is measured by the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS).

High school students take the state’s exit exam. Results are reported for subgroups based on gender, race, disability, income and whether English is their principal language.

High schools are also required to show an increase in graduation rates. In other grades, attendance must show improvement.

To make “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP, school have to meet the objectives in every subgroup. For Waccamaw Intermediate, those total 21. There are 17 for Waccamaw Middle. Waccamaw High and Waccamaw Elementary each have 13 objectives.

There are also 31 objectives for the Georgetown County School District. It missed two, both for disabled students, and so didn’t meet AYP.

Teachers are already looking at test scores to determine who needs help to meet the new goals, Hammel said.

Having PASS scores earlier this year helps ninth-grade teachers determine which students need help. The 2009 PASS scores didn’t arrive until spring 2010.

Waccamaw Intermediate teachers are also reviewing the data and focusing on subgroups that need help to meet higher goals, said principal Tim Carnahan.

“I don’t know if it’s possible for us to obtain those marks, but we’re going to try,” Carnahan said.

He was particularly proud of the school’s fourth grade math scores and that the school’s special needs students met standards.

PASS scores will be released to the public Friday.

“We have great special ed teachers,” Carnahan said. “Then when they go into another classroom, the teacher still works with them right where they are.”

Missing the objective for disabled students kept Maryville Elementary and Georgetown Middle from making AYP.

“I’m not sure how fair that is,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said. “I don’t mind being held accountable, but I just want it to be realistic and fair, even with those subgroups.”

Patti Hammel, the district’s executive director for student performance and federal programs, described the rising goals for the special needs subgroup as “devastating.”

“There’s a reason why they take a longer period of time to learn a certain skill. If they learned at the same rate or in the same way, they would not be in those special situations,” she said.

Georgetown High and Andrews High also missed AYP goals.

Four schools that had missed AYP in the past, and were required to let students transfer within the district – Andrews Elementary, McDonald Elementary, Rosemary Middle and Carvers Bay High – made AYP this year.

It they meet goals in 2011, they will lose their “choice” status.

“It was exciting to get these results,” Patti Hammel said.

Carvers Bay Middle School lost its choice status after meeting AYP for the second consecutive year.

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