Each Carson school needs improvement
by Maggie O'Neill
No Carson City School District schools made adequate yearly progress in 2004-05 under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
It is the first time since the act's passage in 2001 that all 10 of the district's schools failed. While it may appear that the district is failing miserably, this last round of results is based on higher requirements than in previous years.
To pass, up to 10 percent more students at the elementary, middle and high school levels would have had to pass criterion-reference tests or proficiency tests, compared with last year's students. The percentage plateaus until 2007-08.
The student body as a whole and each of eight sub-groups must reach that higher degree of proficiency.
"We only missed (adequate yearly progress) in some of these schools by a few kids," said Carson City School District Superintendent Mary Pierczynski. "I think, obviously, we'll continue to strive to improve. We are pleased in areas where we saw a marked improvement this year, especially in math at the high school."
But Carson High School failed in English-language arts and remains in need of improvement.
Last year four schools - Bordewich-Bray, Mark Twain and Seeliger elementary schools and Pioneer High School - made adequate yearly progress.
"We will continue to work to improve where it's needed," Pierczynski vowed.
The district fared well in two of the three criteria needed to make adequate yearly progress. It met attendance requirements at every school and nearly made the test participation scores, with only Carson and Pioneer high schools falling short.
A few students in sub-groups are keeping some schools just short of needed proficiency.
A subgroup is defined as 25 students in any one category such as: American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, black, Hispanic, white, free and reduced lunch, special-education and limited-English proficiency.
In 2004-05, for example, 45 percent of fifth-grade students from a student body at large were required to pass the math test. This meant 45 percent of each of the fifth-grade subgroups also had to demonstrate proficiency for a school to make adequate yearly progress in math.
"Many of the smaller counties don't have to count the sub-populations so they're not quite the concern for them that they are for us here in Carson," Pierczynski said.
In the first two years, the repercussions for schools not making adequate yearly progress affect only schools that receive federal funds through the Title I program. Title I funding is based on the number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches. In Carson, they are Bordewich-Bray, Empire and Mark Twain elementary schools.
In its first year of failing to make progress, a school is put on a watch list. In the second year, a school is listed as in need of improvement. Parents of students at Title I schools are then given the choice to send their children to other district schools.
"Empire has been in that situation for the past two years," said Mike Watty, director of education services. "We've had at least some 15 students elect to utilize the choice to transfer."
In the third year of failing to make progress, the district must also offer supplemental tutorial services at Title I schools. Parents can select from a list of about 20 agencies, but no parents have elected this option.
"Most of the companies don't have offices close by," Watty said. "There's one called Brain Power in Minden - there's a number that are Internet based."
After four years, all schools are visited by a support staff of state and education professionals who help with improvement plans and make recommendations which must be followed. Empire staff will work with a team of specialists this year.
After five consecutive years of failing to make progress, a school faces restructuring. Staff could be replaced, or the state department of education could take over.
"The state has already said that they do not have the manpower, much less the resources, to come in and do that," Watty said.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES