According to results released last week, the Dawson County School System was one of the 152 systems, out of 183 systems statewide, that failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress in 2011.
Three of the seven local schools, Dawson County High School, Riverview Elementary and Riverview Middle, failed to meet AYP, putting them among nearly 37 percent of schools statewide.
Dawson County Superintendent of Schools Keith Porter was optimistic about the AYP results, in spite of the state saying that the system did not meet standards.
"We try to temper our devotion to the results of a single test score, because we know that there is much more to a student's education than the test." Porter said. "The bottom line is that we are graduating more students now than in the history of our system and at the highest percentage recorded."
Of the 1,529 local students who took part in the testing, 85.3 percent either met or exceeded requirements in math. In reading and language arts, 94.3 percent met or exceeded requirements.
The system as a whole failed to meet requirements due to a very small number of students in the students with disabilities subgroup that did not score high enough on a system-wide scale.
While the subgroup was not large enough at any one school to be considered a school subgroup, the total number of students with disabilities in the system, 238, was sufficient to constitute a system-wide subgroup.
Of this group, 65.2 percent posted sufficient scores in math, while 78 percent did so in reading/language arts. Eighty percent of a subgroup must achieve a passing score for a school or system to achieve AYP.
"We are only a few positive results short in one subject area of one subgroup," Porter said. "Riverview Elementary School and Riverview Middle School were just short of the requirements in one subgroup as well."
Adequate yearly progress is determined by a multitude of factors, including school attendance, system-wide performance of specific subgroups, and school-specific performance of specific subgroups.
"Our scores are very strong again this year, with our scores being above the state averages on almost all of the measures," Porter said. "It is evident that the increasingly high scores necessary to meet AYP requirements have made it very difficult to reach all subgroup goals. Our scores are increasing, yet with the attainment bar being raised, all schools and systems will continue to struggle to meet AYP requirements."
According to Porter, he believes that the many schools did not meet requirements because of a performance bar that may be set at an unrealistic height.
The progress demanded by AYP, and the federal deadline for 100 percent proficiency in all schools by 2014, are part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
This year, schools and systems were required to meet an 85 percent graduation rate, along with higher standards for students passing English/Language Arts and Math portions of the CRCT and graduation tests.
While Porter said he believes in challenging students, he thinks that finding a fairer way to measure a student's growth and education needs to be a priority at the state level.
"It is likely that the guidelines will change soon to indicate a more balanced appraisal of student performance through the reauthorization of the law," Porter said. "Our test scores continue to climb steadily each year, and so we believe strongly that the things that we have implemented are working well, so we have to continue to concentrate on those things that we can control."
The system currently awaits results from re-testing and summer testing that took place at the high school level.
Those results are expected within the next week.
Since this is the first time the Dawson County system as a whole has not met AYP since its inception during the 2002-03 school year, there are no consequences at this time.
Schools and systems that do not make AYP for two consecutive years in the same subject are placed in Needs Improvement status and face escalating consequences if test results do not improve.