After only six of 22 Rock Hill schools met federal standards for adequate yearly progress this year, district officials say they're ready to face the challenge of improvement head-on.
AYP is part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It requires schools and school districts to make a certain amount of improvement in English/language arts and math test scores each year. Although some individual schools made it, no South Carolina districts met AYP this year for the second year in a row.
"Obviously, we're disappointed," Rock Hill Superintendent Lynn Moody said. "We feel like our students are performing much better than the data indicates, and we have a number of things in motion for improvement."
Moody got the ball rolling earlier this year on initiatives geared toward low-achieving students. Among them is a program to help older middle school students catch up, the addition of more academic coaches at the high schools and more teachers for the district's alternative school, more virtual classes and the creation of a mentor program.
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However, the biggest undertaking has been the district's focus on curriculum mapping. A curriculum map essential plans out what is taught when and for how long.
The purpose of curriculum mapping is two-fold. One is to make sure that all students, regardless of their school or class, learn the same material. And the second is to make sure that all the material on end-of-year tests is being taught during the year.
The curriculum maps are designed to eliminate any holes between what students are learning and what they are being tested on, Moody said.
While creating the curriculum maps, teachers are able to work together and share ideas. "All the teachers bring their best to the table, and they share their best," Moody said.
Because the Rock Hill district has not met AYP for four years, the state is now responsible for making sure that some form of "corrective action" is taken.
Although the term sounds daunting, it doesn't mean the state will be in control of the district.
The most common corrective action the state takes with districts that don't meet AYP is to put a new curriculum in place, said Nancy Busbee, director of federal and state accountability for the S.C. Department of Education.
Because Rock Hill schools have been working to refine the curriculum locally, Busbee said it would not be unlikely for the state to accept those changes as the new curriculum.
"It very well may be that we could just get involved with that and enhance what they're doing currently," she said.
Since this is the first year the curriculum maps are being used at elementary schools, and because the middle and high school maps aren't all finished, any effect from the mapping would not have shown up in this year's test scores.
"We don't want to undo the good things that are going on," Busbee said.
As for what change parents will see, Moody said they should stay tuned for increased communication.
Beginning next semester, parents in grades three through eight will be kept up to speed on what their children are doing in English and math with written handouts.
The handouts will tell parents what their child is learning about and what they can do at home to help their child learn the material.
As more classes begin using pretests and post tests to determine what students have learned, parent-teacher conferences will aim to focus more concretely on where a child is at and what they need to do to improve.
Harriet Jaworowski, associate superintendent for instruction and accountability, said most parents don't know what to make of the No Child Left Behind data.
"What I believe parents care about more is, 'Is my child safe and happy, and are they learning at a school?'" she said. "And if they are, most parents don't worry about those things."