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Local Schools Fall Short On AYP Scores

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RALEIGH, NC. — Local schools learned a tough lesson Friday, when most did not make the grade for a key component to the federal "No Child Left Behind" act.

Because of the different standards, it is possible for schools to perform well on one test and poor on the other. In Wake County, for one, only 43 percent of schools made

adequate yearly progress, or AYP.

The grading system is different from the ABCs, which is based on end-of-grade test improvements. Adequate yearly progress is based on students meeting certain classroom goals.

The federal government has the magnifying glass on students who have trouble keeping up.

"We have to close achievement gaps," state Schools Superintendent Mike Ward said, "and we have to do it at a faster pace than we've been able to manage in the past."

The No Child Left Behind Act looks at 10 subgroups that include minorities, low- income and special-education students. If one or more groups fail to achieve AYP, the school is labeled

Needs Improvement.

"It does not mean that a school has fallen from grace and suddenly gone from one of the best to one of the worst because, suddenly, it now needs improvement," said John Dornan, president of the Public School Forum.

Apex Elementary School bears that label -- but only because one subgroup fell short of the AYP by a point.

That's the flaw, some say. If you miss by an inch, you might as well miss by a mile.

"On one hand, you're saying to one school that may have taken their students from 30 percent at or above grade level to 70 percent at or above grade level, but you didn't make the 71-percent standard," said Wake County Public Schools Superintendent Bill McNeal. "Consequently you could be sanctioned. That's wrong. That's wrong."

For most schools, it is an image problem. But the consequence for schools that get federal funds for low-income students are more serious.

They could be forced to allow students to transfer or have to pay for special tutoring.

State leaders say they will use the results to put money and attention where it is needed.

"We now have a road map," Dornan said. "We can see exactly where we need to put resources, where we need to do a lot better."

Most other school systems in the area did not fare much better than Wake County schools did.

Both Durham and Johnston counties had fewer schools making the federal grade. Only 29 percent of the schools in Chapel Hill made the cut.

On the other hand, both Cumberland and Wilson County schools performed much better.

At 70 percent, Wilson is one of the top school systems in the state.

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