The state Board of Education wants to add another measure to its school accountability plan to comply with federal standards.
Test scores for specific groups of students, such as Hispanics, English learners and low-income children, would be scrutinized in a plan introduced Tuesday at the state Board of Education meeting.
The federal No Child Left Behind law requires schools to show academic progress for various groups or risk being labelled "needing improvement." If a school continues to fail, its administrators could be replaced.
Test scores of students in certain groups, divided by ethnicity, income, special education standing and English proficiency, would be examined beginning in the fall.
However, a school still could receive a lower federal label even if students in each grade level improve but students with limited English skills don’t, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said.
That will not happen at the state level, where the academic progress score will be just one factor in the state plan to improve education.
Elementary schools are judged on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards and the Measure of Academic Progress scores or a writing exam. High schools are judged on the AIMS scores, graduation rates and dropout rates.
The state is trying to align its accountability plan with the federal law, though the two plans need not be identical, Horne said.
The state’s plan must be submitted to federal officials by May 1.
Board president Wade McLean said the federal law is unfair because Arizona spends less per student than other states.
"Arizona must meet the same criteria as every other state with a lower funding level," he said.
Mesa Unified School District Superintendent Debra Duvall said No Child Left Behind could hurt the state economy by labeling districts that fail to meet standards. "Ultimately, those reflections will come back to us in terms of reducing the level of economic development in the state because companies will not want to locate here," she said.
In other state education business, the Senate Education Committee approved a House bill Tuesday that gives "underperforming" schools one additional year, until 2004, to work on their school improvement plans before being labelled "failing." The bill now goes to the full Senate.