State schools miss progress requirements
CHEYENNE - One in five Wyoming schools failed to make adequate progress last year according to federal standards established by the No Child Left Behind Act, the Wyoming Department of Education said Monday.
That's more than double the number identified as failing to meet targets last year, and includes eight schools that failed to meet their targets for the third consecutive year, the agency said.
However, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Annette Bohling said the department expected to see more schools on the list because the state raised the target scores schools needed to make.
"We had been anticipating a jump in the number of schools as this is the first year since No Child Left Behind started that we have raised the bar," Bohling said.
Each year, state assessment tests - WyCAS for this year and previous years, but the new PAWS test will be used in the future - are used to determine how many students in each school are performing at the appropriate level for their grade.
Last year, elementary schools needed only 30 percent of their students to test at their grade level in language arts and 23 percent in math to meet the state's target. This year, those number were raised to 42 percent and 36 percent, respectively.
Targets also were increased for intermediate students - those in junior high and middle school - and high school students.
"Everybody was kind of sitting there on edge, waiting to see what would happen," said Mary Krisko, curriculum adviser and grant support coordinator for Washakie County School District No. 1, where all of the schools met the state standard.
Schools that fall below the standard for the first time are essentially just given a warning, Bohling said.
But that can be enough. Craig Dougherty, superintendent of Sheridan County School District No. 2, said The Wright School, the district's intermediate alternative school, became the first school in the district to fall below AYP standards.
"The bottom line is just not enough kids met the standards to be proficient, and there's no excuses about that," Dougherty said. "The kids and the teachers and the principal are committed to doing a better job this year."
In the second year, schools are required to incorporate strategies in their school improvement plans to meet the standards. Certain schools also are required to notify parents of the failure to meet AYP, and to allow parents to send their children to another school in the district that did meet standards.
A third year on the list means further revision of the school improvement plan, and schools are required to dedicate some of their special programs, such as summer school, toward correcting the shortfalls.
Three of the eight schools failed to meet targets for the third consecutive year were in Laramie County School District No. 1. Ted Bridwell, the district's director of instruction, said officials would use the numbers to help improve performance in the future.
Bridwell also said the new PAWS test, which will track improvements for individual students, would provide a better barometer for how schools can help students improve.
Bohling said that's the idea - to alert schools to specific shortcomings so that they can put their resources where they're most need.
And that's true even for districts that met their targets across the board.
"We can congratulate ourselves for about 15 minutes," Krisko said. "Then we have to take a look at what we can do to improve, and we get to work."
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