I am very proud to be a volunteer at North Harlem Elementary, the school that my grandchildren attend. The welcoming environment and the professionalism of the staff and the current administration make volunteering there a pleasure. I have spent much time in the building during school hours and observed, firsthand, the hard work and commitment of the teachers.
So when I read in your newspaper that North Harlem was on the states list of schools that need improvement, I was alarmed, to say the least. However, I have since done my homework and have a much clearer understanding of the flawed method used for identifying the schools that fall within the category of needs improvement.
First of all, Title I schools that have a population of at least 50 percent free and/or reduced-price lunches were the only ones subject to scrutiny. The states Title I office used the reading and math scores of the fourth graders who took the Criterion Reference Competency Test (CRCT) in the 1999-2000 school year and compared them to the scores of fourth graders who took the CRCT in 2000-2001. The percentage of students in Level One on the reading portion of the test, the level classified as not meeting standards, dropped from 34 percent to 18 percent, resulting in a 47 percent improvement. These results met the states arbitrary criteria, which require that a school show only a 5 percent reduction in students at Level One.
During that same two-year period, the percentage of students in Level One on the math portion of the test dropped from 23 percent to 22 percent. This improvement, a 4 percent reduction, did not meet the states required 5 percent reduction. If one more student had moved from the lowest level to the second level, North Harlem would not be on the states needs improvement list.
Given the tremendous improvement in the area of reading, the high percentage of students who met or exceeded standards in reading (83 percent) and math (78 percent), and the fact that methods for measuring school improvement are obviously flawed, the only thing I can do is applaud the hard work of the teachers at North Harlem and hope that the state discovers a much more effective way of determining whether one of its schools should be branded with the label needs improvement.
Moreover, I implore our local newspapers to publicize the good news when it involves schools such as North Harlem. For example, this spring, North Harlem is ranked in the top 20 percent (199 of 1,053) of public elementary schools in Georgia by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.