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NCLB Outrages

State: NH high schools

Making progress is not good enough. Each year the stakes are raised. Eventually, all schools will be failing. All.

By Riley Yates

MANCHESTER Nearly half of New Hampshire's high schools did not show sufficient progress in testing last school year as required by federal law, the state will announce today.

A growing number of the state's high schools 35 of 78 failed to meet the No Child Left Behind law's goals for 10th-grade testing, a top Manchester school official said.

Assistant Superintendent Frank Bass said all three of Manchester's high schools are on the list for both reading and math, in results that will be released this morning by the state Department of Education.

The designations come as the state said in August that high school sophomores across New Hampshire had shown progress in state assessment testing last school year, the fourth year of improvement.

But testing expectations ended up increasing faster than could be met by many schools, including Manchester's, which did improve, Bass said.

"The bar has been raised to such a level that it's difficult for many districts, not just Manchester, to respond appropriately," Bass said.

Last night, state Education Commissioner Lyonel Tracy said New Hampshire schools are showing progress. He downplayed the expectations of No Child Left Behind.

"It just reflects one particular test on one particular day," said Tracy, who would not discuss results until today's announcement.

Where last year 70 percent of students had to place in the top three of four categories for reading, now 77 percent of students are required to place there, Bass said.

In math, 64 percent had to place in the basic category, compared to 52 percent last year, he said.

Manchester's high schools were tripped up by their scores for subgroups such as students with educational disabilities, limited English proficiency or those who are low income, Bass said.

"Have Manchester public schools increased their scores in the past three years?" Bass asked. "The answer is unequivocally, yes."

Bass said at first blush, he did not believe the schools will appeal the designation, but meetings will be held to discuss each case individually.

Tracy said the schools flagged today will have to follow a process for addressing problems, including getting supplemental help and offering students the option of switching to a school within the district that is not on the list.

"None of our schools are in any real danger of disastrous consequences," Tracy said.

Tenth-graders have taken the state assessment test since 1996. Last year was the first time in a decade that the third- through sixth grades did not, as the state is switching to a new test.

In January, Manchester was one of 18 school districts the Department of Education said did not meet sufficient progress for two years in a row.

The school board approved a plan last week to address the federal in-need-of-improvement status, calling for more community outreach and teacher training and reworking curriculum with an eye to testing.

Bass and Leslee Stewart, the vice chairman of the school board, said the plan will help the city address areas that are lagging.

"I'm proud of the fact we're continuing to improve each year," said Stewart. "Am I happy with the designation? No, I'm not."

— Riley Yates
Union Leader Staff


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