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80 Percent of Idaho Schools Miss Federal Standards

Since private schools are not judged on federal standards, why is public inserted in the screaming headline--except to dump on public schools?

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -- About 80 percent of Idaho public schools failed to meet new federal standards on student progress in the last school year, according to preliminary figures.

But the state Department of Education is reanalyzing the information on school performance so it reflects the actual circumstances in which public education in Idaho operates.

"We've only seen a glimpse of the data, and we don't stand by that data," department spokeswoman Allison Westfall said.

Even the revised list being released late this week will contain flaws that analysts hope to work out in future reassessments, Westfall said.

Idaho was not alone. The Post Register in Idaho Falls reported that 85 percent of the schools in Florida and 40 percent of the schools in New York City failed. Yet only 20 percent of the schools in Montana did not measure up.

The State Board of Education is revamping the criteria for computing the results that determine how well a school, not an individual student, is doing, Westfall said. The standards were set in the No Child Left Behind law enacted in President Bush's drive to improve education.

The latest criteria try to accommodate the very small minority student populations in many schools and remove the impact of tests scores for students who were not enrolled in the same school the entire year.

Schools were also penalized for students who missed class the day of the test.

In addition, Westfall said, the state's testing contractor has already received 500 notices that test results it submitted did not match what those schools said their students produced.

In the initial computation of results from testing during the 2002-2003 school year, Westfall said, only 111 of the state's 647 public schools met the standards set in the federal law, which intends to make every student proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014.

A subsequent assessment increased the number to 144 schools passing the test.

"Every superintendent was in shock," Blackfoot Superintendent Dewane Wren said after district officials were informed of the preliminary results early this month. "It was the first time every one of us had heard there was a problem."

Performance is based on a three-year average of mathematics and reading scores among fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders. At least 95 percent of a school, class and distinct student group had to take the test, and 95 percent of them had to pass.

Student groups include special education and various minorities.

"There are 60 ways for a school to fail," said Gary Jones, research director for the Bonneville School District. "It's extremely easy."

— Associated Press
80 percent of public schools in state miss federal standards


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