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NCLB Outrages

Schools missing progress target


By Stephanie Warsmith and Katie Byard

More than two-thirds of area school districts failed to meet the tough adequate yearly progress requirement on the annual state report cards released Tuesday.

Forty-three local districts missed this federal threshold, up six from last year.

The figures mirrored a statewide trend, in which 417 of Ohio's more than 600 public school districts didn't make adequate yearly progress -- up more than 50 percent from a year ago.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, districts and schools must show a certain level of student achievement each year, called adequate yearly progress. Missing this target on state-mandated reading or math tests brings increasing consequences, ranging from having to offer tutoring to takeover by the state.

Many local districts, including Cuyahoga Falls, again missed adequate yearly progress for disabled students.

``We need to increase their level of proficiency in math and reading and maintain all the good work we're doing everywhere else in order to make sure we meet AYP goals,'' said Walter Davis, assistant superintendent of Cuyahoga Falls, which will face tough penalties next year if it misses the target again.

Davis predicted that adequate yearly progress will continue to challenge Ohio districts, as more tests are added and as districts gain students in different subgroups. Districts must have a minimum number in each subgroup, such as 45 disabled students, to be graded on progress for the group.

``I think that's a very real issue for districts across the state,'' Davis said. ``For our own district, we're seeing growth in subgroups that haven't been large enough in our district to be measured by AYP in the past.''

On the report cards, each district and school receives a ranking of excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch or academic emergency.

The rankings are based on three measures:

The number of indicators a district or school met, which is calculated from standardized test results plus attendance and graduation rates.

Whether a district or school made adequate yearly progress. Districts must show improvement among all students and several subgroups, such as low-income and minorities.

The district or school's performance index score, which calculates the achievement of every tested student, even those who don't pass.

Down a notch

Two local districts -- Stow-Munroe Falls and Crestwood -- lost their effective ratings this year because they didn't meet adequate yearly progress. Both dropped to continuous improvement.

The state strips districts of excellent and effective ratings when they miss the progress target three times, including not meeting the goal in two or more subgroups in the third year.

Stow, which thought it would rise to excellent, missed the target for disabled and limited-English students.

Crestwood failed to make the target for disabled and low-income students. The district met 21 of 25 indicators -- enough to qualify for an effective rating, without the downgrade for adequate yearly progress.

``We think it's a little unfair,'' Superintendent Joseph Iacano said of this rule. ``But, on the other hand, our obligation is to do what we can to improve in those areas.''

Crestwood's school board last week authorized spending $20,000 to address the district's failure to meet adequate yearly progress.

Positive points

Not all of this year's results are bad.

For the first time, no traditional public school districts received the lowest rating of academic emergency. All of the Big 8 urban districts are now in continuous improvement or academic watch.

Akron remained in continuous improvement and Canton moved up to the same level from academic watch.

None of the urban districts met adequate yearly progress -- a goal that Akron and Toledo reached last year.

The urban districts benefited from the performance index, which gives districts credit for students who increased their scores even if they didn't pass.

Akron's performance index rose from 80.4 to 85.8, putting the district just 4.2 points away from effective.

``The trend that we're seeing is that we're holding last year's performance and improving each year,'' said Sue Long, Akron's assistant superintendent.

Districts move up

For the first time, every local district rated in continuous improvement or above. Canton and Alliance -- the only districts in academic watch last year -- moved up a notch.

Eighteen districts, including Copley-Fairlawn, Plain and Tallmadge, increased to excellent.

Copley-Fairlawn leaders said they worked on raising the achievement of low income, minority and students whose first language is not English.

``It's hard work -- the standards are difficult,'' said Superintendent Ed Myracle.

All of Plain's first- through fifth-graders carried personal learning portfolios last year that outlined their goals.

``We were really focusing in on where students needed to grow,'' said Christopher Smith, Plain's assistant superintendent.

Some local districts excelled on new achievement tests that are being phased in to replace the old proficiency tests. Jackson, for example, scored in the high 90s on several standardized tests. District leaders credited a reading program that assesses students' abilities, before-school reading academies, and parent math nights.

``If the parents are involved and know what's going on and expect the student to know what's going on, there's that responsibility that helps contribute to the students' being better students,'' said Linda Salom, Jackson secondary curriculum director.

Charter schools

Among local charter schools, four are rated as excellent, one as effective, 10 as continuous improvement, two as academic watch and nine as academic emergency.

In addition, three other area charter schools ranked as excellent. They were operated by local districts, which closed the schools and absorbed the programs.

Akron-based Summit Academy Management, which operates 27 charter schools across Ohio, has nine schools in academic emergency, five in academic watch, nine in continuous improvement and one each in effective and excellent. Two did not receive ratings this year.

All 20 Life Skills Centers alternative high schools, operated by Akron-based White Hat Management, are in academic emergency.

Among White Hat's 11 Hope Academies are four in academic watch, five in continuous improvement and one each in effective and excellent. The schools have students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The results for the statewide online charter schools, which enroll more than 1,000 area children, are mixed.

Ohio Virtual Academy rose from continuous improvement to effective. Three schools -- Alternative Education Academy, operated by White Hat Management; Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow; and TRECA Digital Academy -- went from academic watch to continuous improvement.

The Virtual Community School of Ohio is at the bottom in academic emergency.
Moving Up

Alliance, Brunswick, Black River, Buckeye, Canton City, Canton Local, copley-Fairlawn, Field, Green (Wayne), Kent, Louisville, Medina, Northwestern, Plain, Rootstown, Southeast (Wayne), Springfield, Tallmadge, Twinsburg, Waterloo, Woodridge and Wooster.

Moving Down

Crestwood and Stow-Munroe Falls

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com. Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. Computer assisted reporting manager David Knox and staff writer Patrick Cain contributed to this report.


— Stephanie Warsmith and Katie Byard
Akron Beacon Journal
2006-08-16


INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES


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