Lafayette quizzes High Point educators about low test performance

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:50

    Lafayette-"Why has High Point Regional High School failed in 41 performance areas on the high school proficiency test in regard to the No Child Left Behind Law?" That was the question posed by Committee Member George Sweeney at a recent town meeting called to give Superintendent of Schools John Hannum and several other members of the Board of Education the opportunity to present an answer. Hannum explained that there is a conflict between legislation governing the reporting of test scores and the proficiency test. He said that the No Child Left Behind Law, whose purpose is, "To close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind," although "laudable" is "seriously flawed." The law requires test scores of special education students to be included with those in standard classes, and High Point has an unusually high number of those students. Only two schools in the county met the cut-off points, but they have fewer special education students, otherwise scores would have been the same as at the other eight high schools. Hannum said that it is also important to note that special education students take the same proficiency test despite the fact that some students are severely disabled and may not even be able to speak. The state mandates that students pass the high school proficiency test, which is given in March of junior year, to graduate. If the tests are not passed when the students are juniors, they are identified and considered "at risk" but have two other opportunities in senior year to pass. The federal law does not allow for the second test. Nearly 99 percent of High Point students qualify in time for graduation. The discrepancy between local and federal laws results in misleading statistics. When scoring to include the special education scores, the percentage of High Point students that passed is 91.9 percent in Language Arts, fourth in the county, and 86.8 percent in Math, second in the county. If the scores were separated, High Point's passing percentage is 97.3 percent in Language Arts, and 92.6 percent in Math. Had this percentage been only .2 percent more, High Point would have been first. For special education students, the percentage is 57.5 percent in Language Arts and 48.7 percent in Math, both second in the county. Hannum pointed out that the high school administration is making every effort to keep the special education students within the school's student body. To send these students to other districts would cost approximately $40,000-50,000 per student plus some $20,000 for transportation. Board Member Hoffman told the committee that the school presently is at 95 percent utilization, meaning every classroom is occupied and the auditorium also is being used as classroom space. Hannum said that a study in 2003 by an architectural firm revealed that the school had a "functional capacity" of 1,227, and demographic studies estimate growth to approximately 1,368 plus 18-20 outside students. He said that projected enrollment should be lower than it is. Instead, it is actually 40-50 students more than the sending districts indicated as coming out of the eighth grades. "I believe we are working miracles," he said. The high school is taking steps to insure future success. The budget includes provisions for two additional teachers for math and communications labs for students in jeopardy of not passing. A special education intervention program to deal with behavioral problems will include professional counseling. A mentoring program with volunteers from high school staff has begun. There will be a one-to-one ratio of mentor to student, with individuals representing all segments of the school workforce n janitorial, food services, administration, and teaching. Lastly, software has been purchased for English and math to hone test taking skills. The final speaker of the night, Colleen Jakel, the Lafayette Board of Education president, speaking as a parent, praised the High Point administration. With her fourth child now attending the school in programs from honors to basic, she said she felt the same respect was shown to every one of the children.