East Valley school districts fail to meet federal academic standard - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

East Valley school districts fail to meet federal academic standard

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Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 12:47 pm, Wed Jul 27, 2011.

Not one East Valley school district made adequate yearly progress this year based on federal and state academic standards.

But few are surprised by the information, released today by the Arizona Department of Education.

In fact, only a handful of districts in all of Maricopa County achieved the complicated requirements - Fountain Hills, Mobile, Morristown, to name a few.

In Arizona, only 58 percent of schools met adequate yearly progress for the 2010-11 school year.

"The federal requirements for meeting AYP are impractical for many schools and districts in Arizona and across the nation," the state Department of Education reported in a news release.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that public schools - district and charter - make adequate yearly progress based on test scores, graduation rates, the number of students tested and attendance. The law mandates that the data is examined for all students as well as different subgroups - five ethnic groups, English language learners, special education and students in poverty. Should any one group fail in just one grade and subject, a school - and ultimately a district - fails.

And this year, it was tougher to meet the standard.

By 2014, federal law requires that all students - 100 percent of every student in every subgroup - make adequate yearly progress on their grade level. Arizona, like every state in the country, set yearly requirements that inch up a bit until that level is met.

For example, to meet the required standard this year, 65 percent of all third-graders tested in math in the spring had to pass Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards. Last year, that number was 53 percent. Next year, the number is 77 percent. And in reading, 65.5 percent of eighth-graders had to pass the test to meet adequate yearly progress. That number was 54 percent last year and will be 77 percent next year.

Schools labeled as Title I - meaning they have a high number of low-income families - could face consequences should they fail to make adequate yearly progress. The federal law requires states to dictate steps schools take if they end up in "corrective action," a label slapped on when test scores fail to improve for any one group of students several years in a row. When that happens, a school may face "restructuring," such as a change in leadership, staffing or a takeover by a charter school or the state.

Like other school districts, Mesa Unified School District saw more schools not making sufficient progress than the previous year.

"It was primarily that the English language learners are not passing the reading test or it's special education students not passing at a high enough rate," said Joe O'Reilly, Mesa's executive director for student achievement support. "That's one of the challenges. But we have to address all of it. We're looking at ways of improvement for all of our students."

Ken Baca, new superintendent of Tempe Union High School District, said it's important for parents to realize that the federal adequate yearly progress mark is only a "snapshot" of what happens in the classrooms.

"That's one snapshot of how students did at any one given time. It is important information, but it's as though you have 230 questions on an exam and you get one wrong, you fail the exam," he said.

Parents and the community should also look at other indicators: how many students graduated, how many achieved national rankings, how many are going on to college.

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