CAPE | Council for American Private Education

Council for American Private Education

National Blue Ribbon Schools Program

 

To Apply for the 2015 Program

 

  1. Download CAPE's Procedures for Private Schools (PDF).
  2. Download the BRS application in PDF or Word format.
  3. Download the assessment cut scores (PDF) to see if your school qualifies.
  4. Sign up for CAPE's E-mail Updates.
  5. Complete the online registration form by October 30, 2014. You should receive an email acknowledgement soon after you complete the registration form.
  6. In early November, registered schools will be sent an email message containing a school code and keyword that they can use to access their online application. Before then, schools should refer to the PDF or Word version in #2 above to prepare responses and data for the online application.
  7. Complete the online application after receiving the school code and keyword. All applications must be completed online. See important information below regarding this process
  8. Print out and mail to CAPE, for receipt by December 12, 2014:
    1. two hard paper copies of the completed online application,
    2. an original application cover sheet signed by all appropriate parties, and
    3. your assessment verification document(s).

Mail applications to:

Council for American Private Education
13017 Wisteria Drive, #457
Germantown, MD 20874

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Program Overview

Eagle

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has honored and recognized great American public and private elementary, middle, and high schools since 1982. A National Blue Ribbon Schools flag waving overhead has become a trademark of excellence, a symbol of quality recognized by everyone from parents to policy-makers in thousands of communities.

The program recognizes schools that meet either of two criteria:

  • Exemplary High performing schools: Schools whose students achieve at very high levels.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools:Schools making significant progress in closing achievement gaps among different groups of students.

National Blue Ribbon Schools are honored each year at a recognition ceremony in Washington, DC. The applications from the award-winning schools are posted on the Department Web site.

Applicants are advised to read the application and all information on this page very carefully.

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Assessment Requirements

Private schools are eligible for Blue Ribbon recognition if they meet either one of two criteria:

Exemplary High Performing Schools: "High performing" means that the achievement of the school’s students in the most recent year tested places the school in the top 15 percent in the nation in reading (or English language arts) and mathematics as measured by a nationally normed test or in the top 15 percent of its state as measured by a state test. If a non-public school administers both state tests and nationally normed tests, the school must be in the top 15 percent in both.

Disaggregated results for student groups, including students from disadvantaged backgrounds, must be similar to the results for all students tested in the most recent year tested; at a minimum, student subgroups must be at the 60th student percentile or higher on nationally standardized tests or state tests if administered. A student from a “disadvantaged background” must include a student who is eligible for free and reduced-price school meals.  The definition may include students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient, migrant, or receiving services under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

For high schools, the graduation rate in the most recent class of graduates must be 95 percent or higher.

For schools using nationally standardized tests, the U.S. Department of Education has published tables of cut scores for each grade that place performance in the top 15 percent of schools in the nation. You can download the tables here in PDF format. (Detailed procedures for determining eligibility based on test scores for national tests are provided below.)  Schools using state standardized tests will have to find out from their state education department whether their scores place them in the top 15 percent of schools in the state for each test (see State Contacts List). Whether a school uses national or state tests or both, the top 15 percent criterion must be met in both reading and math scores for the most recent year tested for ALL grades three and higher in which the tests are administered in the school.

Exemplary "Achievement Gap Closing" Schools: (Note: This category only applies to schools that administer state assessments.) “Achievement gap closing” is defined by the chief state school officer of each state, but at a minimum means:

  1. The school must be in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state for both reading (English language arts) and mathematics based on its progress in closing achievement gaps between the school’s subgroups and the state’s all-students group over the past five years, comparing the most recent year to the earliest year.
  2. For each of the school’s subgroups, the performance of all tested students in the subgroup in the most recent year tested in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics must be in the top 40 percent of all schools in the state when schools are ranked based on the performance of tested students in that subgroup.
  3. For the most recent year in which graduation rates are available in the state, the graduation rate of each of a high school’s subgroups must be in the top 40 percent of all high school graduation rates for that subgroup in the state.
  4. The change in the performance of all tested students in the school over the past five years, comparing the most recent year to the earliest year, must not be less than the change in the performance of all tested students in the state in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics.

Schools using state standardized tests will have to find out from their state education department (see State Contacts List) whether their scores and degree of improvement over the past five years qualify them them for the “achievement gap closing” category. If the school meets the standards, it should secure a written acknowledgment of that fact from an official at the department and submit that with the application.

For Both Categories of Schools:  Test results for grades three and higher during the most recent five years must be reported even if the assessment was revised or changed during that period.  In the rare cases where five years of test results are not available, an explanation should be provided in the school’s application. Schools that do not provide five years of test results for all grades tested, regardless of the explanation, will be placed in a second tier of eligibility, and their applications will be reviewed only in the event CAPE does not receive 50 eligible applications with five full years of data. (An exception to the "second tier" rule applies to schools that have added grades to their testing program in recent years in order to get a more complete picture of student performance.) Also note that if a school had fewer than 10 students in ANY grade tested during the five most recent years of testing, it is NOT eligible to apply for the program.

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Process and Timeline

For private schools, this supersedes what is in the USDE application.
Timeline Procedures
By October 30, 2014

School officials download:

  1. CAPE's Procedures for Private Schools and
  2. the BRS application in PDF or Word format.
By October 30, 2014

School officials use the online registration form to register for the program. Schools not registered by October 30 are not eligible to apply.

Early November 2014

School officials receive an email notification containing a school code and keyword that they can use to access their online application.

By December 12, 2014

CAPE must receive from the school:

  1. two hard paper copies of the online application
  2. an original application cover sheet signed by all appropriate parties, and
  3. the assessment verification document(s).

CAPE must receive the package by 5 p.m., December 12 at CAPE's mailing address.

By January 30, 2015

CAPE's review panel selects 50 schools to nominate for the award and advises applicants accordingly. Schools are notified of the results, and nominated schools receive feedback on how to improve their applications.

By February 27, 2015

School officials from nominated schools submit their final online applications to the Department of Education. CAPE will then deliver to USDE officials the original signed application cover sheet for all 50 applicants.

September 2015

Secretary of Education announces the 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools.

Fall 2015

Ceremony takes place in Washington, DC, to honor the National Blue Ribbon Schools.

 

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Does Your School Rank in the Top 15 Percent?

The U.S. Department of Education has published tables of cut scores for standardized tests that school officials can use to determine whether their school ranks in the top 15 percent of schools in the nation. You can download the tables here in PDF format. Cut scores are available for the following tests:

  • ITBS/ITED (Forms A,B,C, and E), Riverside Publishing
  • SAT – 9th Ed (Form S), Pearson Education, Inc.
  • SAT – 10th Ed (Form A), Pearson Education, Inc.
  • MAT 8 (Form V), Pearson Education, Inc.
  • Terra Nova 2nd Edition (All Forms), CTB/McGraw-Hill
  • Terra Nova 3 (All Forms), CTB/McGraw-Hill
  • CTP IV, Educational Records Bureau
  • SAT, College Board
  • ACT, ACT
  • NWEA, MAP
  • Performance Series, Scantron

If a school's nationally normed testing program is not listed above, the school is not eligible for the BRS program unless it administers, and qualifies using, state tests.

In cases where state tests are administered, a school should contact the state education department to find out what scores in reading and math put it in the top 15 percent of schools in the state (see State Contacts List).

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Online Application Process

In early November, schools that registered for the program by the October 30 deadline will receive via email a school code and keyword to access the online application. A hardcopy of the application is available here in PDF or Word format for reference and practice, but schools must complete the application online.

An essential point to keep in mind when working with the online application is that the “Final Submission” button can only be pressed once.  The time to press it is in February 2015 when submitting the FINAL application to the U.S. Department of Education.  (Only 50 schools selected by CAPE will be able to submit the final application.)

Until the “Final Submission” button is hit in February, the online application is considered a draft application and may be printed, revised, and revisited over and over.  The “Final Submission” button in effect locks the application in its final form, which is why schools should not hit it until the February submission.

As part of the CAPE review process, schools must send CAPE two printed copies of the online application for receipt at CAPE by December 12.  It is easy to print a paper copy from the online application; just hit "Print Draft Copy."  CAPE’s review panel has to work with paper copies and does not have access to online copies.

After CAPE’s review panel meets in January to select the 50 schools to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, we notify the schools with suggestions about final amendments they should make to their draft application before submitting the application in February.  Only after this review and correction process should schools submit their final application by hitting the “Final Submission” button.

Here are some additional guidelines for the online application:

  1. Narrative responses to application questions must address the topic succinctly. No attachments to the online application can be submitted. Bulleted sections are not acceptable.
  2. Tables, charts, graphs, photos cannot be accommodated by the online application. 
  3. On-line instructions must be followed when copying/pasting text from Word to the online application; formatting may be changed.
  4. Saving work frequently is necessary to protect the “work in progress.”
  5. Printing the application for review is possible before and after the final submission.All applications must be completed and submitted by the program's timelines. No changes can be made to applications after submission. 
Instructions for completing the application are provided as online help text. Assistance is available for school applicants through the National Blue Ribbon Schools Technical Assistance Team, run by RMC Research Corp., the Department of Education's contractor for the program. Please use this form to contact the team for help in navigating the online system, or questions regarding responses to the narrative or data items.

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Additional Guidelines

  1. Read and follow the directions in the application packet carefully. Pay attention to the technical specifications. When CAPE's review panel evaluates applications in an effort to narrow the field to the allotted 50, it eliminates applications that do not comply with the program's rules and specifications.
  2. The program is looking to identify truly exemplary model schools, not just good schools or strong schools. Your responses to the questions must convey programs and practices that are well above the ordinary.
  3. Periodically check the Frequently Asked Questions section of CAPE's Web site.
  4. Check your application against the scoring guidelines that reviewers will use to evaluate applications scoring
  5. The narrative questions have changed significantly for the 2015 program. Be sure your responses hit all the points called for in the scoring guidelines.
  6. Proofread and edit the application. Someone with a solid background in writing should do the final edit.
  7. We welcome your phone calls (301-916-8460), faxes (301-916-8485), or e-mail inquiries (brs@capenet.org) concerning any aspect of the application process. One of our goals at CAPE is to help private schools receive recognition as Blue Ribbon Schools!
  8. When you get your superintendent (e.g., for Catholic schools) and/or school board president to sign the cover sheet, do so well in advance of the December 12 due date. Faxed signatures are not accepted. Only original signed cover sheets are accepted.
  9. Here are some points to review in connection with part II of the application:
    1. The percentages reported in #7, #8, and #9 are calculated using the ratio of the total number of students in each category to the total student enrollment in the school.
    2. The ratio reported in item 11 should be calculated using full-time equivalent classroom teachers, which can be determined by using line 2 of item 10. For example, five full-time teachers and six half-time teachers equal eight full-time equivalent teachers.
  10. Examples of responses to particular questions may be found in the applications of winning private schools for 2003-14. See the NBRS Awards Page of the USDE Web site.
  11. Avoid using the first person (we, our, etc.) in the narrative.
  12. Schools that have enrollments under 100 (excluding the number of students in PreK) or that have enrollments of nine or fewer students in any grade for which test scores are reported for the past five years are NOT eligible to apply.
  13. Disregard instructions at the bottom of the application's first page about converting the cover sheet to a PDF and uploading it to the online application portal. For private schools, the signed cover sheet is submitted directly to CAPE with the paper copies of the application that are due December 12 at CAPE's mailing address.
  14. If you belong to a (arch)diocese, identify the (arch)diocese and superintendent in the "district" section. Make sure the superintendent signs the cover sheet that you submit with the paper copies of the application.

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Frequently Asked Questions

— General —

1. What is the maximum number of schools that CAPE can nominate to the USDE for recognition?

Fifty.

2. What if CAPE receives more exemplary applications from qualifying schools than it can nominate?

The CAPE review panel will narrow the field to 50 by eliminating applications not in compliance with the requirements of the program (including submission deadlines and other technical requirements) and by evaluating the quality and responsiveness of the essay questions. Download the scoring guidelines (PDF) that reviewers will use for the 2015 program. CAPE will give preference to schools that applied in previous cycles of the BRS program but were unsuccessful because of technical (as opposed to substantive) violations.* Preference will be given to schools that did not win the award in the years 2003-2009 (schools that won after those years are not eligible to apply). Finally, efforts may be made to avoid an excessive concentration of schools from the same state. After that, all applications of eligible schools that meet the requirements of the program and that provide exemplary responses to the essay questions will be pooled, and nominated schools will be selected randomly.

*To receive this preferential treatment, schools that fall in this category should attach a note to the draft application submitted in December to let CAPE know that the application is a second try. The note should indicate the year and violation of the initial application.

3. Must a school have a minimum enrollment to apply?

Schools must have an enrollment of 100 or more students. Also, the count for each grade for which test scores are reported over the past five years must be 10 or more students.

4. May a K-12 school apply to have only part of its school recognized (e.g., the elementary division or the middle school division)?

That depends on how the school is configured and managed. The application states, "Schools on the same campus with one principal, even a K-12 school, must apply as an entire school." If the school has separate buildings and separate administrators for its lower, middle, and upper divisions, it may submit a separate application for each division. However, if a school has only one administrator, it must apply as a unit. The rule of thumb is whether or not the public would be able to understand that only a particular unit of the school, and not the entire school, received the award.

5. If a school received the NCLB-BRS award in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, or 2014 may it apply for the 2015 award?

No. Only schools that have not received the award in the past five years are eligible for the program. Note that priority in the selection process will be given to private schools that did not win the award in years 2003-2009.

6. May a new school apply?

A nominated school must be in existence with its current grade configuration for at least five full years, that is, since September 2009. Merged schools are considered new schools for purposes of this rule.

— Foreign Language Requirement —

7. Must a school offer a foreign language program in order to qualify?

If the school includes grades 7 or higher, it must have a foreign language program in those grades as part of its curriculum. Explicit compliance with the foreign language requirement must be communicated as part of the response to Question 2 of Part IV, by stating, "[Name of School] is in compliance with the program's foreign language requirements."

8. What standard is used to determine if foreign language is part of the curriculum in grades 7 and higher?

The U.S. Department of Education has determined that a school with grades 7 and higher must have foreign language as a part of its curriculum. CAPE has interpreted this to mean that, for grades 7 and 8, 20 percent or more of students must take foreign language during the regular school day for the equivalent of 30 minutes per week for a full year. So, for example, if a school were to offer foreign language for an hour each week for a half year to 20 percent of its students, it would meet the requirement. At the high school level, foreign language instruction should be an integral part of the curriculum with the majority of students taking two or more years of foreign language instruction before they graduate. If you have questions about whether your school meets this requirement, please send an e-mail message to CAPE (brs@capenet.org) describing the program in detail (e.g., what percent of students in grade 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 take the program; how many periods per week; how many minutes per period). If need be, we will forward your e-mail to the U.S. Department of Education for guidance. Please be sure to resolve this issue before applying for the award. A number of schools were disqualified in past years because they failed to meet the foreign language requirement.

— Assessment Verification —

9. What assessment verification must schools submit to CAPE?

Depending on how they qualify for the program, schools must include the following information with the hardcopy of the application that is due at CAPE in December:

Exemplary High Performing Schools in Nation: A copy of a printout from the testing publisher (it generally has the company's logo on it) that identifies the school's scores in reading and math for the most recent year tested in ALL grades tested from grade 3 up. We prefer a single sheet covering all grades, but if your testing company does not report scores that way, then submit a separate sheet for each grade. (Note: A school must submit, as part of the application, testing data in reading and math for all grades three and higher tested for the past five years, but the assessment verification documents should be submitted only for the most recent year tested. Do not submit verification data for years other than the most recent year tested.) Attach the document(s) to the very end of your application.  The point of the assessment verification document(s) is to verify the accuracy of the scores the school has reported for the most recent year tested, so the scores on the online application and the assessment verification document(s) should match. Many schools are disqualified from the program either because they do not submit an assessment verification sheet, or they report the wrong kinds of scores (e.g., school percentiles instead of student percentiles), or the scores in the online tables do not match the assessment verification scores.  Please contact CAPE if you have questions about any of this. Also, high schools using SAT and ACT scores from multiple testing dates should contact CAPE regarding assessment verification.

Exemplary High Performing Schools in State: A copy of the printout(s) from the state education department that identifies the school's scores in reading and math for the most recent year tested in ALL grades tested from grade 3 up. The school must also provide evidence from the state education department that the scores reported in the most recent year tested place the school in the top 15 percent of schools in the state in both reading and math for each grade. Finally, if the school is required to report disaggregated results for student subgroups (see guidelines here), it must provide evidence from the state education department that results for student subgroups in the most recent year tested are at the 60th student percentile or higher on state tests.

Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools in State: A copy of printouts/letters from the state education department that verify that the school's demographics, scores, and progress over the past five years render a school eligible for this category. 

— Other Assessment Issues —

10. Where do I find the nationally standardized test scores that I should be reporting and that qualify my school for the program?

It’s different for each testing company, but here is guidance for the most popular K-8 tests. You can report scores as scale scores OR as percentiles, but not both. You must report scores consistently across all grades. Note, however, that if you have to disaggregate scores for subgroups (see guidelines here), you should report all scores as scale scores.

Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) 

If Reporting Scale Scores: On the testing company’s summary report for the grade in question, look at the row marked “Average Standard Score (SS)” and go to the columns marked “Reading Total” and “Mathematics Total.”   Report these scores for all grades tested (3 and higher).  To see if your school qualifies for the program, take these scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “School Mean Scale Score at 85th Percentile of National School Norms” on the ITBS page of the Education Department’s cut scores document.  Note that there are two different score columns for fall and spring administrations of the test. Use the column that applies to your school.

If Reporting Percentiles: On the testing company’s summary report for the grade in question, look at the row marked “Percentile Rank of Average SS:  National Student Norms” (sometimes listed as NPR of Average NSS - National Student Norms) and go to the columns marked “Reading Total” and “Mathematics Total.”   Report these scores for all grades tested (3 and higher).  To see if your school qualifies for the program, take these scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “Student Percentile Equivalent for the 85th School Percentile” on the ITBS page of the Education Department’s cut scores document.  Note that there are two different score columns for fall and spring administrations of the test. Use the column that applies to your school.

Iowa AssessmentS (ITBS FORM E)

If Reporting Scale Scores: On the testing company’s summary report for the grade in question, look at the row marked “Average Standard Score (SS)” (sometimes listed as "Average NSS") and go to the columns marked “Reading” and “Mathematics.”   Report these scores for all grades tested (3 and higher).  To see if your school qualifies for the program, take these scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “School Mean Scale Score at 85th Percentile of National School Norms” on the ITBS page of the Education Department’s cut scores document.  BE SURE TO USE THE HIGHER FORM E SCORES WHERE APPLICABLE. Note that there are two different score columns for fall and spring administrations of the test. Use the column that applies to your school.

If Reporting Percentiles: On the testing company’s summary report for the grade in question, look at the row marked “National Percentile Rank of Average SS” (sometimes listed as NPR of Average NSS) and go to the columns marked “Reading” and “Mathematics.”   Report these scores for all grades tested (3 and higher).  To see if your school qualifies for the program, take these scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “Student Percentile Equivalent for the 85th School Percentile” on the ITBS page of the Education Department’s cut scores document.  BE SURE TO USE THE HIGHER FORM E SCORES WHERE APPLICABLE. Note that there are two different score columns for fall and spring administrations of the test. Use the column that applies to your school.

Terra Nova 2 

If Reporting Scale Scores: On the testing company’s summary report for the grade in question, look at the row marked “Mean Normal Curve Equiv.” and go to the columns marked “Read” and “Math” (not “Read Compst” and “Math Compst”). Report these scores for all grades tested (3 and higher).  To see if your school qualifies for the program, take these scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “School Mean Scale Score at 85th Percentile of National School Norms” on the Terra Nova 2 page of the Education Department’s cut scores document.

If Reporting Percentiles: On the testing company’s summary report for the grade in question, look at the row marked “NP of the Mean NCE” and go to the columns marked “Read” and “Math” (not “Read Compst” and “Math Compst”). Report these scores for all grades tested (3 and higher).  To see if your school qualifies for the program, take these scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “Student Percentile Equivalent for the 85th School Percentile” on the Terra Nova 2page of the Education Department’s cut scores document.

Terra Nova 3 

If Reporting Scale Scores: On the testing company’s summary report for the grade in question, look at the row marked “Mean Scale Score” and go to the columns marked “Read” and “Math” (not “Read Compst” and “Math Compst”). Report these scores for all grades tested (3 and higher).  To see if your school qualifies for the program, take these scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “School Mean Scale Score at 85th Percentile of National School Norms” on the Terra Nova 3 page of the Education Department’s cut scores document. Note that the Terra Nova 3 table reports separate scores for spring and fall administrations of the test. Use the scores that apply to your school.

If Reporting Percentiles: On the testing company’s summary report for the grade in question, look at the row marked “NP of the Mean NCE” and go to the columns marked “Read” and “Math” (not “Read Compst” and “Math Compst”). Report these scores for all grades tested (3 and higher).  To see if your school qualifies for the program, take these scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “Student Percentile Equivalent for the 85th School Percentile” on the Terra Nova 3 page of the Education Department’s cut scores document. Note that the Terra Nova 3 table reports separate scores for spring and fall administrations of the test. Use the scores that apply to your school.

Stanford Achievement Test

Special Note: Schools using the SAT should be sure to read the special note on page 1 of the cut scores document prepared by the U.S. Department of Education.

If Reporting Scale Scores: On the testing company’s summary report for the grade in question, look at the row marked "Mean Scale Score" and go to the columns marked “Total Reading” and “Total Mathematics.” Report these scores for all grades tested (3 and higher). To see if your school qualifies for the program, take these scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “School Mean Scale Score at 85th Percentile of National School Norms” on the SAT page of the Education Department’s cut scores document.  Note that there are different SAT pages reflecting different SAT editions.

If Reporting Percentiles: On the testing company’s summary report for the grade in question, look at the rows marked "National PR-S of the Mean National NCE and to the the columns marked “Total Reading” and “Total Mathematics.”  Note that the PR-S row gives two scores, the percentile and the stanine, separated by a dash. The first two digits are the percentile. Only use that score. Report these scores for all grades tested. To see if your school qualifies for the program, take the scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “Student Percentile Equivalent for the 85th School Percentile” on the SAT page of the Education Department’s cut scores document.  Note that there are two different SAT pages reflecting different SAT editions.

ERB Comprehensive Testing Program (IV) 

On the testing company’s “Reading Comprehension” summary report for the grade in question, look at the "Mean Score" at the top left (just under "Scaled Score Range"), Round the mean score (up if .5 or higher, down if .4 or less). Report these scores for all grades tested (3 and higher).  Do the same for the "Mathematics 1 & 2" summary report. To see if your school qualifies for the program, take these scores for grades 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9 in the most recent year tested and compare them to the cut scores found for the appropriate grade and subject under the table marked “School Mean Scale Score at 85th Percentile of National School Norms” on the CTP IV page of the Education Department’s cut scores document. Note that cut scores are only available for grades 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9.

11. Does a school have to meet or exceed the cut scores for every grade tested in the five years for which test scores are being reported?

No.  Even though a school must report five years of reading and math scores for every grade tested, the only scores that must meet or exceed the cut scores are the scores for each grade tested in the most recent year tested.  Scores for other years must be in the general vicinity of the cut scores, or on an upward trend, but need not meet or exceed them.

12. If a school is in a state that requires private schools to take state tests, should the school use nationally normed tests or state tests to qualify for the program?

If a private school administers state tests and nationally normed tests, the school must report both sets of test results and be in the top 15 percent in both. In other words, such schools must qualify under state standards and national standards.

13. If a private school elects to, but is not mandated to, administer state tests in addition to national tests, must it report the state test results and meet the state test cutoff scores?

Yes.

14. Where can I find out what state tests to report, how to report them, and whether my school is in the top 15 percent of schools in the state?

For questions about state assessments, call your state department of education. State Contacts List.

15. If a school uses nationally standardized tests for which qualifying cut scores have not been determined by the USDE, is there any way it can qualify under the "top 15 percent in the nation" category?

We're sorry, but at this point there is not. If a school wishes to qualify under the "top 15 percent in the nation" category, it must use a test whose publisher has provided the U.S. Department of Education with qualifying cutoff scores.

16. Under what circumstances must a school disaggregate assessment data for certain groups of students?

The school must disaggregate the data for the following groups of students only if the subgroup represents at least 10 percent of the school’s total enrollment in the current school year:

  1. students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals,
  2. any minority (non-white) ethnic/racial group,
  3. limited English proficient students, migrant students, and students with disabilities.

In the applicaiton itself, refer to Part II, Demographic Data items 5, 7, 8, and 9 for the percentages of total current enrollment of potential subgroups.

Important Note: The school only needs to report assessment results for subgroups if there are at least 10 tested students in the subgroup in a given grade. If the number of students assessed in any subgroup is fewer than 10, do not report the test results or the number of students assessed.

With respect to meal-eligible students, the school must disaggregate the data (assuming the conditions above apply) whether or not the school actually offers the federal school meal program.

Disaggregated results for student groups must be similar to the levels of all students tested; at a minimum, student subgroups must be at the 60th student percentile or higher on nationally standardized tests or state tests if administered.

Note that you cannot average percentiles when calculating disaggregated scores. You can average scale scores, however. Accordingly, if you have to disaggregate scores, you should report all scores for all grades as scale scores so that your score reporting is consistent. Also, you must provide evidence from the testing company and/or the state that disaggregated scale scores are at the 60th student percentile or higher. It gets complicated, so you might want to contact CAPE on this point.

17. Even though a school qualifies for the program using test results in reading and math from the most recent year tested in all grades tested, does it still have to submit reading and math results from all the standardized state and national tests administered in all grades for the past five years?

Yes, but be sure to see the notes below about high school SAT and ACT exams.

18. What if a school does not have five years of assessment data?

In the rare case where five years of test results are not available, an explanation should be provided in the application. Schools that do not provide five years of test results for all grades tested, regardless of the explanation, will be placed in a second tier of eligibility, and their applications will be reviewed only in the event CAPE does not receive 50 eligible applications with five full years of data. (An exception to the "second tier" rule applies to schools that have added grades to their testing program in recent years in order to get a more complete picture of student performance.)

19. When reporting test scores in the online application, I am supposed to enter the number and percentage of students alternatively assessed.  What is an alternative assessment?

An alternative assessment is an assessment designed for the small number of students with disabilities who are unable to participate in the regular grade-level standardized assessment, even with appropriate accommodations.  An alternative assessment can measure progress based on alternate achievement standards.  The term does not refer to adjustments in the administration of a standardized test in order to accommodate student needs.  Note that an explanation must be provided if the percentage of students alternatively assessed is greater than two (2) percent of all students tested.

20. May the assessment results reported by the testing company be adjusted to allow for special circumstances (e.g., by excluding the scores of a student who falls asleep during the test and thereby brings the group’s average down)?

No. The only scores that count are those reported by the testing company. The school may not make adjustments to these scores.

21. We are a high school, but ninth grade is the highest grade we test, may we use those scores to qualify for the program?

No. High schools may only use scores for tenth grade or higher to qualify.

22. Does the "top 15 percent" requirement mean that the school has to have been in the top 15 percent of all the schools in the nation or state (or both) for at least the past five years? Or could it be for the current year only?

The school must be in the top 15 percent for the latest year of the reported tests. Depending on when test results are available, the "latest year" may be the current one or it may be the previous year.

23. Does the "top 15 percent" requirement mean that the school has to demonstrate that all student groups in the school score equally well?

No. Schools may use aggregate scores to qualify. However, each student group for whom there are disaggregated data must achieve at levels similar to the majority students; at a minimum, student subgroups must be at the 60th student percentile or higher on nationally standardized tests or state tests if administered.

24. For what years should we report test scores?

Schools must report five-years of test scores for all grades tested. For most schools, that means reporting results from tests administered last school year and the four preceding years (that's how the columns where you report scores on the application are marked). However, if you administer tests in the fall and you already have the results from this year's tests, you may elect to report scores starting with the current school year. In that case, you'll have to add a note on each page where you report scores stating, "Because we are reporting scores starting with the current school year, each column header is off by one year." Schools that administer state tests should report scores for the years that the state uses to qualify public schools for the NBRS program.

25. What if the nationally normed high school test used is the ACT or SAT?

If 90 percent or more of students from the most recent graduating class took the SATs, but not the ACTs, use the SATs to qualify for the program. If 90 percent or more of students from the most recent graduating class took the ACTs, but not the SATs, use the ACTs to qualify for the program. If 90 percent or more of students took some combination of the SATs and ACTs (e.g., 50 percent take SATs and 40 percent take ACTs) use both tests to quality for the program. If fewer than 90 percent take the tests, the results cannot be reported. The school has the responsibility to demonstrate that, in the aggregate, the students in a school achieve in the top 15 percent of the nation on these tests and that any disaggregated results (if required) for student groups are at the 60th student percentile or higher.

26. If a student takes the ACT or SAT multiple times, may a school use the highest scores attained by that student in calculating the class average?

Yes, but contact CAPE on how to provide assessment verification.

27. Should high schools submit PSAT or PLAN results?

No.

28. If a high school has 90 percent or more of its seniors taking some combination of the ACT and SAT, must it submit those scores and must they meet or exceed the cut scores for the program?

Yes.

29. If a high school has its seniors take a standardized test other than the ACT and SAT but also has 90 percent or more or its seniors taking some combination of the ACT and SAT, must it submit both sets of scores and must they both meet or exceed the cutoff scores for the program.

Yes.

 

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