Attributing Belfry’s academic success to a new curriculum approach and tremendous support from teaching staff, school board and community members, Superintendant/Principle Jason Olson is proud of his school. As the only school to have all classes, K-12 in Carbon County demonstrate AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress), a federally mandated program that determines how every public school is performing academically, Olson believes the new inter-curriculum and collaborative efforts of his teaching staff have much to do with the students’ achievement. “I think what helped us out is that we’re trying to take a real world, hands-on approach. It helps students put things into perspective. Our school is small enough and we are lucky to have the resources to make it applicable,” Olson explained. Olson said his teaching staff has been creating thematic units that are integrated into each subject area. “The teachers work as a team to try to align the curriculum to make it more of a building block.
With integrated studies and differentiated instruction, we can have students at different levels still able to get the information. Part of the success is being able to give one-on-one instruction and personalize it,” said Olson. “What helps close the gap is being able to bring in that real world experience and getting them to see how curriculum correlates.” AYP, a somewhat controversial program in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA), ‘…is calculated based on test participation, academic achievement, graduation rate, and other statistics...’ as stated in a press release from Superintendant of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau.
The state uses the standardized CRT’s (Criteria Reference Tests) to determine AYP. However, Joliet Schools Superintendant, Jeff Bermes explained that small schools with fewer than 30 students use a different process and set of criteria than larger schools, such as Red Lodge and Joliet to determine AYP. Larger schools with 30 or more students in a testing population rely on the test performance of all its students as the main criteria. “If you have 30 kids and one kid doesn’t make it, that’s a huge drop and that’s what we are seeing,” Bermes said. If we test 30 kids and two kids didn’t make it, we’re already down to 93% proficiency and that doesn’t make the AYP cut offs.
That’s pretty statistically relevant.” Currently, ‘…the testing goals require that 94.8 percent of students score proficient or above in reading and 90 percent of students score proficient of above in Math… and the graduation rate goal is 85 percent…’ By 2014, the goal is to have 100% of students performing academically at their grade level. Because of the many factors that affect each student’s performance, whether environmental or social, Bermes does not believe AYP is an accurate indicator of a schools academic achievement. “I think it’s unrealistic to expect everybody to be 100 % proficient. There are too many variables that affect kids learning.
What about kids that have learning disabilities, those are the concerns we have,” Bermes said. In Carbon County, the schools that made AYP for the 2012-2013 school year included: Belfry K-12, Bridger H.S., Fromberg 7-8/H.S., Luther K-8, Roosevelt 6-8, Roberts K-6/H.S.