FAIRBANKS - New rules approved by the federal government for Alaska will give the state flexibility in judging how schools perform under the No Child Left Behind Act.
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A growth model approved by the federal government as a pilot program will track individual student test scores over years and reward schools when students improve, even if the students are not technically proficient as defined by the law.
State and local school officials Monday applauded the decision.
"People will have a better picture of school performance," said Les Morse, the Alaska Department of Education's director of assessment, accountability and information management. "This is looking at 'Did our students get better, even if they're not proficient."'
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools must keep track of how many students in grades three through 10 are proficient in reading, writing and math based on standardized tests.
All students must be proficient by 2014, according to the law. If students fail to make "adequate yearly progress" toward that goal, schools can face sanctions.
The standard method for determining whether students make adequate yearly progress is to compare test scores at the grade level. For example, test scores of fifth-graders are compared to test scores of fifth-graders the previous year.
Under the growth model, scores of students in fifth grade are compared with their own scores from the year before.
"We think that we are on a path to bring the dialogue back to the level parents expect it to be: 'Did my child improve this year as opposed to last year?"' Morse said. "That's what parents and that's what the community expects of us."