CAPE | Council for American Private Education

Council for American Private Education

National Blue Ribbon Schools Program

 

To Apply for the 2014 Program

(Note: Applications for the 2015 program will likely be available later in 2014. In the meantime, we provide the following information for the 2014 program, for which applications were due January 3, 2014. The 2015 program will likely be similar to the 2014 program.)

 

  1. Download CAPE's Procedures for Private Schools (PDF).
  2. Download the BRS application in PDF or Word format.
  3. Download the cut scores (PDF) to see if your school qualifies.
  4. Sign up for CAPE's E-mail Updates.
  5. Complete by December 6, 2013, the short online registration form. Note: The link to the form was removed after the December 6 deadline. If you did not register by December 6, you are not eligible to apply in the 2014 cycle. Please consider applying next year.
  6. Complete the PDF or Word version of the application on your computer. See important information below regarding that process
  7. Print out and mail to CAPE, for receipt by January 3, 2014:
    1. two hard paper copies of the application,
    2. an original application cover sheet signed by all appropriate parties, and
    3. your assessment verification document(s).

Mail 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 that are ranked among the state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics or that score at the highest performance level on tests referenced by national norms in at least the most recent year tested.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools:  Schools in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state for both reading (English language arts) and mathematics based on progress in closing achievement gaps between the school’s subgroups and the state’s all-students group over a five-year period. (Note: Since this component of the program relies on state assessments, only schools that administer state assessments are eligible.)

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 test 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 progress in closing achievement gaps between the school’s subgroups and the state’s all-students group over a five-year period.
  2. The performance of students in the all-student group in the school should not have declined over the same period relative to the state’s all-student group in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics.
  3. The performance of students in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics in all subgroups in the school must be in the top 40 percent of all schools in the state in the most recent year tested based on the performance of their respective subgroup at the state level.
  4. The graduation rates of students in all subgroups in a high school must be in the top 40 percent of all high schools in the state based on the graduation rates of their respective subgroups at the state level.

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 their application.

For Both Categories of Schools:  Test results for all grades three and higher tested during the most recent five years must be reported even if the assessment was revised or changed during that period. 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.) 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 December 6, 2013

School officials download:

  1. CAPE's Procedures for Private Schools and
  2. the BRS application in PDF or Word format.
By December 6, 2013

School officials use the online registration form to register for the program. Schools not registered by December 6 are not eligible to apply.

By January 3, 2014

CAPE must receive from the school:

  1. two hard paper copies of the 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., January 3 at CAPE's mailing address.

By January 30, 2014

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 28, 2014

School officials from nominated schools submit their final online applications to the Department of Education. CAPE delivers to Aba Kumi at USDE the original signed application cover sheet for all 50 applicants.

September 2014

Secretary of Education announces the 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools.

Fall 2014

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), Riverside Publishing
  • Iowa Assessments (Form 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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Submitting the Initial Application

As part of the CAPE review process, schools must send CAPE two printed copies of the application for receipt at CAPE by January 3, 2014.  Schools can use the PDF or Word versions of the application as the basis for the application.  Here are a few guidelines:

  1. All responses must be typed.  Please do your best to duplicate or approximate the look of the original application.
  2. Please use consistent type and font for your responses.
  3. For each essay question use a heading that includes the part number, the question number, and the bolded title.  For example:
    Part III, Summary
    Part IV, 1, Assessment Results A
    Part IV, 1, Assessment Results B
    Part IV, 2, Using Assessment Results
    Part V, 1, Curriculum 
  4. Do not print the text of the question itself.  Stick to the recommended word length.  To save paper, you do not need to start a new page for each essay.
  5. When reporting test scores, most private schools (i.e., those that report results on national tests), will be able to use this sheet (in MS Word format).  Duplicate this sheet for each grade for which you are reporting tests.  In other words, submit one sheet per grade. Here is an example of a completed sheet for a school that happens to have enough Hispanic students (10 or more per grade) to report subgroup scores (see the response to Question 16 below for more info on subgroups). Also, be sure you are reporting the correct scores (see the response to Question 10 below).
  6. If your school administers state tests, use the table found on p. 16 of the application, which allows you to report the percentage of students scoring at various performance levels.

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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. Proofread and edit the application. Someone with a solid background in writing should do the final edit.
  5. 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!
  6. 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 application due date. Faxed signatures are not accepted. Only original signed cover sheets are accepted.
  7. 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 10 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.
  8. Examples of responses to particular questions may be found in the applications of winning private schools for 2003-13. See Applications on USDE Web site.
  9. Avoid using the first person (we, our, etc.) in the narrative.
  10. Private schools that have enrollments under 100 (excluding 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.
  11. Disregard instructions at the bottom of the application's first page about converting the cover sheet to a PDF. For private schools, the signed cover sheet is submitted to CAPE with the paper copies of the application that is submitted to CAPE at CAPE's mailing address.
  12. 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 2014 program. CAPE will give preference to schools that qualify in the "improving schools" category. We will also 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 2003-2008 (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 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, or 2013 may it apply for the 2013 award?

No. See List of Schools. 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 2003-2008. Also note that so far, because of this priority, CAPE has not yet renominated any school that previously has won the award from 2005 on.

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 2008. 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 1 of Part V, 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, and a significant number of students in grades 7 and higher must take the course. 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 with their initial applications the following information.

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.  Call CAPE if you have questions about any of this. Also, high schools using SAT and ACT scores from multiple testing dates should call 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 reporting disaggregated results for student subgroups, 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 

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 Iowa Assessments 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 “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 Iowa Assessments 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.

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

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 (PDF).

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 whenever such groups consist of 10 or more students per grade:

  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.

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. Note that this advice differs from instructions provided in the online application, which requests assessment data regardless of the subgroup size. The online request applies to public schools only. Private schools should ignore the online request and should follow CAPE’s instructions.

With respect to meal-eligible students, the school must disaggregate the data (assuming the conditions in paragraph 1 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 call 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 for public schools.

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 disaggregated results 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 call 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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