Newly-released federal measurements of Virginia schools list eight Fauquier County schools as "needing improvement plans."
The Virginia Department of Education published the Federal Annual Measurable Objectives (FAMO) for state schools today. It lists Bradley Elementary, Cedar Lee Middle, Greenville Elementary, Brumfield Elementary, Kettle Run High, Liberty High, Marshall Middle and Warrenton Middle schools as needing improvement plans.
According to the Virginia Deparment of Education's website, those schools "must develop and implement state-approved improvement plans to raise the achievement of [students in subgroups that did not meet AMOS]."
Last year, nine of Fauquier's public schools needed to develop and carry out improvement plans: Thompson Elementary, Fauquier High, Pearson Elementary, Brumfield Elementary, Liberty High, Marshall Middle, Mary Walter Elementary, Taylor Middle and Warrenton Middle schools.
In a statement below, Fauquier County's school administrators emphasized that the new FAMO measurements could not easily be compared with the district's track record in previous years, because the standards of measurement have changed significantly.
Their statement follows:
Last year, Virginia – under No Child Left Behind flexibility waivers granted by the U.S. Department of Education – established “annual measurable objectives,” or AMOs, for reducing proficiency gaps between low-performing and high-performing schools. AMOs replace Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets that schools were previously required to meet under the federal education law.
“While Federal AMO’s (FAMO) do provide data that is useful to school divisions, they no longer provide a means for comparing schools because every school is now measured differently,” said Mary Wills, FCPS supervisor of assessment and testing. AMO targets address reading and math only, and a school “makes” its targets based on SOL pass rates and graduate percentages for all students as a whole, for students in five individual subgroups* and for three gap groups**. FAMO results were released to the public
on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
FAMO benchmarks are significantly different this year because they are determined by how each school did the previous year. If a school exceeded its targets last year, that school’s target for this year is higher. This means some schools, even though they met the federal minimum benchmark, did not “make” FAMO this year because they did not exceed what they made last year. This new component is called “missing the MHE (meet higher expectations).”
“We are making three recommendations when looking at FAMO this year,” said Dr. Sandra Mitchell, associate superintendent for instruction. “First, don’t compare a school’s past performance with present performance. We have to begin a whole new trend line – new standards, new benchmarks and a new approach to assessment where higher-level thinking is required. Secondly, we believe our focus should be on leadership and learning, on students and on instructional quality, not on FAMO.” Focusing on the student, she said, means looking at each student’s results on multiple measures to gauge his or her progress. Focusing on instructional quality means looking at teacher and student goal setting, stretching all students, requiring students to “show what they know” in multiple ways (testing, writing, speaking, visually, etc.), and promoting 21st century skills to deepen each student’s understanding of content. “And the third recommendation,” she said, “is that as a school division we want to nurture a culture where everyone embraces all students as ‘theirs.’ The underlying message is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”
Noting the complexity entrenched in FAMO’s, Dr. David Jeck, division superintendent, urged caution in glancing at results on the surface without digging deeper.
“AMO is calculated differently for each school,” he said. “As an example, in our own school division we have several examples of two schools with the same AMO in math but the school that scored a higher three-year pass rate did not make AMO because of the new ‘missing the MHE’ component while the school with the lower three-year pass rate did make AMO. In other words, one school doesn’t make AMO this year because it scored better than the other school last year. Because it’s so complicated, I would simply urge caution in making comparisons,” he said.
The superintendent said the school division will continue to focus on students and learning and won’t overreact to mandated assessments bearing acronyms like NCLB, FAMO, and SOL.
“My focus will always be on doing the right thing for all students,” he said. “Be assured we will continue to raise the bar” in Fauquier County Public Schools.