Sadly, your correspondent Lynne Vogel will only misinform and confuse readers by her adverse criticism of K-8 charter school Alpha Academy, located in Fayetteville, North Carolina [03/30/2012]. Either by deliberation or ineptitude she makes errors and cites data out of context, thus ignoring the basic premise that in social situations, only correct data lead to valid interpretation, and then, only by comparison over time and with other organizations.
OFFICIAL DATA - THE CORRECTED INTERPRETATION:
For example, with respect to the measure Adequate Yearly Progress [AYP], Ms Vogel describes the achievement of AYP in 2010-2011 as a ‘first time’ while, in fact, Alpha Academy made AYP in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, in each case meeting all of the nine qualifying targets. She worsens the position by stating that the 2011 ‘first time achievement standards do not compensate the hundreds of students who attended the school from 2000-2009 and who received an unsatisfactory education’. Does Ms Vogel not recognize that in 2010-2011, only 20 of 85 Cumberland County Schools met AYP standards and only 700 of 2530 schools state-wide? Is she stating, therefore, that 77% of Cumberland County schools and 72% of North Carolina schools are delivering an ‘unsatisfactory education’? We should be told her answer.
At a more detailed level Ms Vogel states that in 2006-2007 fewer than 50% of students were at or above grade level. Citing the school’s ‘success’ figures for 2008-2009 as being 58% in reading and 69% in mathematics, she describes these as representing no marked improvement. But why stop at that date? If Alpha Academy’s academic history is brought up to the present it becomes clear those statistics mark not just a low point, but a dramatic turning point. Since then, test scores have improved so markedly that now, students at Alpha Academy are outperforming their peers both in Cumberland County and State public schools at large in both reading and mathematics and also in grade 8 science.
For example, overall student performance on the ABCs End-of-Grade Tests in 2011, measured as the percentage of students’ scores at or above grade level, was 80%, 69% and 71% for Alpha Academy, Cumberland County and the State of North Carolina respectively in reading; 90%, 77% and 82% for Alpha Academy, Cumberland County and the State of North Carolina respectively in mathematics.
From being a low performing school in 2006-2007, Alpha Academy in 2010-2011 was designated a N.C. School of Distinction recording high growth. It was within a whisker of being a School of Excellence, a status that would have placed it among the highest performing 52% of all public schools in the state on the basis of standardized test scores.
If the discrete test performance of African-American students is examined, a similar pattern emerges. Using a highly significant indicator, the percentage of African-American students achieving grade level or above in BOTH reading AND mathematics, the School Reports for 2006-2007 show that Alpha Academy, Cumberland County and the State of N.C. recorded 16%, 42% and 44%. By 2010-2011 the position had been transformed. Alpha Academy’s African-American students, who accounted for 81% of the school’s total of test entries, were outstripping their counterparts in county and state-wide public schools by a statistically significant margin, the comparative figures being 78%, 50% and 49% for Alpha Academy, the County and the State respectively.
The prime objectives of the No Child Left Behind Act, 2001, [NCLB] were to stimulate academic improvement and to close the achievement gap between Caucasian and historically lower performing minority student populations. The conditions facing Alpha Academy at that time were not propitious. It had a dangerously low enrollment combined with a high proportion of at-risk children.
Today, many of the challenges remain. The school receives Title I funding; its enrollment of approximately 300 is composed almost wholly of minority groups; 69% of its pupils are listed as ‘low income students’. Nevertheless the track record of Alpha Academy since 2006 is a story of huge success in response to NCLB both with respect to raising achievement and closing the gap. The by-products of this success include a healthy financial standing, substantial waiting lists and the market confidence which has allowed the school to move to a new, custom-developed site.
Such progress reflects the high degree of commitment given to the school by every section of the Alpha Academy.
Peter Travers PhD
BlueNC is dedicated to making North Carolina a more progressive and prosperous state. If your intention is to disrupt this effort, please find somewhere else to express your opinions.