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NCLB Outrages

Subgroups Pull PLV Schools Into 'Not Met' NCLB Categories

Ohanian Comment: How long before the backlash against "subgroups" raises its ugly head?

Two subgroups in the Papillion-La Vista School District did not meet the annual proficiency standard set by the No Child Left Behind law. The Adequate Yearly Progress report, which was released Dec. 20, 2004, indicates students in special education categories in elementary middle and high school levels as well as free/reduced lunch students did not meet the standard.

By 2013, 100 percent of all students should be proficient in all areas. This year's proficiency standards vary depending on grade level and subject matter, but range from 58 percent for eighth-grade math scores to 66 percent for 11th-grade reading scores.

The difficulty with comparing school districts under the No Child Left Behind law is that each state is left to determine what material is tested and what kind of test is given, said Jef Johnston, assistant superintendent of curriculum. In Nebraska, each district determines what material is tested and each district tests differently.

The Papillion-La Vista School District did not meet the proficiency standard in elementary special education in math, middle school special education reading and math, high school special education math and reading and students eligible for free/reduced lunch in reading.

"We try to challenge our students," Johnston said. "We are trying to do the right thing by testing what we teach."

Nebraska is the only state that allows each district to create their test. Teachers and administrators, Johnston said, can't make sense of the tests unless the same test is given to every student.

"It is impossible to compare districts unless you give the same test to every student," Johnston said. "It is also impossible to compare states because they don't give the same tests."

Every school in the Papillion-La Vista School District has a School Improvement Plan, and those are based on performance and help to figure out what works and what doesn't in each building, Johnston said. The data from the district assessments is used to modify the School Improvement Plan. The data from the district assessment is the same data used for the State Report Card and for the AYP.

Normally the AYP data is included in the State Report Card, but the release of that data was delayed this year.

"In the school district we set a high standard and have tough assessments to push our students to do better," Johnston said. "Eventually all schools will be in the 'not met' category. We think that every child should improve every year."

All 16 Papillion-La Vista schools are making progress, Johnston said, and as a whole, all the schools in the Papillion-La Vista School District met federal standards in performance. The subgroups are where the district didn't score as well.

"A great example of our growth is in writing," Johnston said. "Both on our own test and the state test we are seeing growth. Three years ago we were under the state average and now we are among the highest in the state and in the metro area. It has much to do with each school and having a plan for improvement in writing."

If more than 30 students are in the ethnic, free/reduced lunch or English Language Learners subgroup that subgroup will be reported. If more than 45 students are in the special education subgroup then that group will be reported. However, if fewer students are in those subgroups, the scores will not be reported and the school cannot be reported as either on or off the school improvement list.

"We look at those numbers anyway," Johnston said. "We look at all groups of students and try to build a plan for everyone because we think that's important."

— Valerie Cutshall
Papillion Times


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