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NCLB Outrages

Most California Schools Declared Failing

So much for the Feds claim that they weren't labeling public schools as "failures."

Most schools statewide, including those in the San Fernando Valley and the rest of the Los Angeles Unified School District, fell short of benchmarks for reaching a new federal goal of having every student proficient in English and math by 2014, a new report released Thursday said.

The state Department of Education said just 32 percent of California schools achieved adequate progress, based on last year's High School Exit Examination rates and standardized test results. Elementary schools fared the best, with 37.2 percent meeting the benchmarks, but the achievement rate drops to 19.7 percent in middle and high schools.

LAUSD results are even worse.

Although the LAUSD did not have a breakdown of how its schools performed, the state said that just 19.4 percent of the district's students were proficient in language arts and 21.9 percent were proficient in math.

And a Daily News analysis found that of 135 LAUSD elementary schools in the San Fernando Valley, just 25 percent hit the target. None of the Valley's middle schools met the benchmarks, and just three of 20 high schools achieved adequate progress.

California and LAUSD officials said states across the country are reporting similar findings.

"These results tell us what we expected to hear," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said in a statement. "I am truly concerned with the outcome, but it only strengthens my resolve to focus on California's ongoing educational improvement efforts."

The benchmarks were created as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which strives for all students to achieve proficiency in both English language arts and mathematics by 2014.

In light of the federal law and state accountability measures, LAUSD officials said they are stepping up efforts to improve teacher training and institute periodic assessments to catch students who are falling behind. Teachers and administrators across the district are closely scrutinizing results from each round of standardized testing so they can adjust instruction to address students' weaknesses.

"While we are concerned about being able to meet federal guidelines, I say to my people, just keep the target in mind," said Local District A Superintendent Deborah Leidner, who oversees schools in the west San Fernando Valley.

"Make sure we are providing our youngsters with standards-based instruction and our teachers with the best training."

Meeting the federal benchmarks this year meant elementary and middle schools must have at least 13.6 percent of their students demonstrate proficiency in English language arts and 16 percent in math. High schools had to have a minimum of 11.2 percent of their students show proficiency in English language arts and 9.6 percent in math.

The benchmarks would be adjusted gradually to require higher percentages of students to achieve proficiency, with the goal of having all students mastering their grade level content standards by 2014.

High-poverty schools that fail to meet federal academic benchmarks two years in a row would be required to allow their students to transfer to high-performing campuses or provide them with tutoring services.

If the schools continue to underperform year after year, the federal government can impose a range of sanctions from restructuring the campus and replacing administrators to contracting with an outside agency to manage the school.

Forty percent of the schools in the Burbank Unified School District and more than half of those in Glendale Unified met the federal criteria.

Half of the elementary and high schools in the Simi Valley Unified School District met the federal standards, although none of the middle schools did.

About 48 percent of the 29 schools in the Conejo Valley School District met the yearly improvement.

In the Las Virgenes Unified School District, none of the middle schools made the target annual progress, but seven of eight elementary schools did.

— Helen Gao
Most schools in state failing
Los Angeles Daily News
July 24, 2003


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