Recent results show that area schools have gotten more students passing under the No Child Left Behind Act, but several aren't improving fast enough to avoid sanctions under the federal education law.
Nine schools in Newport News, Hampton and Surry County learned officially Wednesday that they must inform parents before the start of the school year that they can choose to transfer their children to other schools.
Those schools failed to reach adequate yearly progress, or AYP, the federal government's standard of student learning each year, for the second straight year, according to a new report.
AYP relies on Virginia's Standards of Learning tests along with other factors to assess the yearly achievement of all students and groups of students, including black, disabled, poor and limited-English proficient students. Now in its second year, the federal regulations have again put Virginia and many school divisions statewide behind the 8-ball in trying to attain the educational targets.
Throughout the state, 11 more school systems achieved AYP this year than last, bringing the total number to 29 out of 103. Locally, three divisions - Isle of Wight, Middlesex and West Point - reached percentage goals, which in coming years will rise. The law expects all students and those in subgroups of students to fully pass in math and reading tests by 2013-14.
Some local and state school officials have been quick to criticize the No Child Left Behind law, even as they scramble to fulfill it. The state released the report Wednesday, but included a dissenting statement from the president of the State Board of Education.
Although the state is following the law, Thomas M. Jackson wrote, "the Commonwealth will continue its advocacy of rational policies that support best practices in teaching, learning and assessment."
Newport News schools' results for 2003-04 are better than last year's, but not enough for the division to earn AYP. The system fell short in getting students who are disabled or speak English as a second language to pass English. Disabled students and those from low-income families also did not attend school regularly enough. Special-education students' test scores fell below the mark for math.
Like many of their counterparts, Newport News officials were not surprised by Wednesday's report. Officials there already knew their weak areas and have developed several programs slated to start this year to address them, said Ashby Kilgore, Newport News' assistant superintendent for curriculum and instructional services.
"We had identified last year literacy and math as the two areas of focus," she said.
Altogether, eight elementary schools, five middle schools and four of the city's five high schools did not reach AYP. The majority struggled to reach the standard in English, with three also failing to pass in math. Fifty-eight percent of schools in the division schools (24 of 41), made AYP.
Hampton's school system was one of only three in the area to make AYP last year. It missed the mark this year in just one category - disabled students' reading scores - but school officials hope that revised data with more alternative tests could reverse their fortune.
In Hampton, 22 out of 35 schools earned the standard, but the school system expects to raise that number by two. The city's school system will appeal the status of Mallory and Moton elementary schools.
Of the 13 schools that didn't make the mark, according to the state, nine missed in only one or two categories. Four Hampton schools currently have to provide transfers.
By late last month, about 150 parents from five lower scoring schools - Moton, Mallory, Bryan and Tarrant elementary schools, and Hampton Harbour Academy - had requested to transfer their children. About 25 of those will not be necessary because the state is not imposing the transfer sanction on Moton. Hampton is also holding off on at least 46 requests from Mallory while it appeals that school's status.
Wythe Elementary School made AYP for the first time this year and is now one of seven schools lined up to accept transfer students from other Hampton schools. "We're just welcoming them," said Wythe Principal Pat Buoncristiani.
In smaller school systems, such as Surry County's, offering school choice will be more complicated.
As in the case of the county's only middle school, where administrators are trying to figure out where to send students who want to transfer. They've sent letters to Isle of Wight and Prince George County to see if they will accept transfers.
Isle of Wight County improved in several areas, pushing five of the eight schools and the whole system into AYP status this year.
The Suffolk school division did not make AYP this year and must provide school choice for students at John F. Kennedy Middle and King's Fork Middle - but those two schools are the only middle schools in Suffolk with extra space.
Even though all four of Poquoson's public schools earned a passing grade, the system itself did not. The district fell short on the English and reading pass rates for students with disabilities.
York County also did not earn the mark, but 17 of its 18 traditional schools did. Magruder Elementary missed one target - black students' pass rates in math. Overall, the district fell short in the English and math areas for special education students.
Three of Williamsburg- James City County's 12 schools did not meet the benchmarks, keeping the system from making AYP.
All individual schools in Gloucester, Mathews and Middlesex made AYP and escaped sanctions.
As a school system, however, only Middlesex made the grade. In Gloucester and Mathews, disabled students' scores lagged divisionwide. The county must work on improvement plans for math and reading.
Staff writers Beverly Williams, Jessica Hanthorn, Matt Paust and Sandra Yin contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, CT Now