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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Label, Same Focus

As part of NJ's new accountability system, schools are no longer held to the adequate yearly progress (AYP) provisions of NCLB. Rather, NJ has developed an accountability system where the state's lowest achieving schools will get the majority of attention. If you're interested in the specifics, please read this press release from the Christie Administration.

My real intent with this post is to reflect on our school's (Indiana Avenue School #18) new label within this accountability system. As of today, our school is now a "Reward School." Just 112 schools in the state were tagged with this label. You can view the full list here. Although I am very proud of this designation, just eight months ago we were labeled a "failing school" for not making AYP. So, in less than one school year, we went from being the dregs of our district to achieving the "Reward School" label.

The moral of this post is we haven't lost our focus. Even though we did not make AYP based on our 2011 accountability test results, we knew our students' performance was trending in the right direction. Our data analyses identified that our students' achievement improved as they moved from grade three, to grade four, and then to grade five. We are aware of our strengths and weaknesses, and we continue to focus on using the data to guide our practice. Our focus hasn't changed because we didn't make AYP, because we knew we were moving our students in the right direction during the years they spent with us. We had evidence that our practice was improving our students' learning. Now, we have the label to support it.

So, today's news is nice for us. It is much better than the alternative, but it really isn't news. It's simply a new label. We'll maintain our focus on getting all of our students to improve their learning during the time each spends with us. That is our job, and we will continue to look to the evidence to do what is best to improve our students' learning.

8 comments:

  1. Our state just recently decided to apply for the waiver. I am curious as to what will happen. I am sure there will be a new label in the very near future for us.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Mike. I think our state's revised accountability categories are an improvement over those from NCLB. I especially like that NJ is using a three-year trend. I hope your state's changes are an improvement for you.

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  2. Congrats to you Sam, your terrific staff and wonderful students. Your post reflects a school that is proud, but not complacent-I love that! Keep up the great work-kids benefit.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Bill. You are correct, we are very proud of our students' successes over the past few years. Student learning will always be our priority, however the pols decide to define it. Thanks again.

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  3. Sam, love your message. Whatever current label we are using doesn't change our focus - teaching and learning! Doesn't matter what label you give us, we are still going to be teaching to our best abilities! Thanks for the message

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    1. Thanks for the comments, partner. You hit the nail on the head. Call us what you like, but we're going to keep teaching, and hopefully, the students will keep learning!

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  4. Congrats Sam. I am sure its no coincidence that the first item on the list of principles the RACs will focus on is school climate and culture. Again, you reinforce the significant influence of this variable in the formula for success...let's hope others catch on.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Joe. As an evidenced-based educator, I find it difficult to spend too much time on those "hit & run" variables with some evidence to suggest they influence achievement some of the time in certain schools. We like to focus on those variables for which there is a wealth of evidence. I know you know them, but they are worth repeating: trust, efficacy, and academic emphasis. We are academically optimistic!

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