Juneau's high school and middle schools did not meet state goals for improvement last school year, according to statistics released Wednesday by the state Department of Education.
Juneau's correspondence program and its classroom at the Johnson Youth Center, a state juvenile jail for Southeast, also did not meet what is called adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
But all of Juneau's elementary schools met the targets, including four schools that didn't do so in the 2002-03 school year.
The percentage of schools meeting the targets jumped statewide. The targets are set by the state and approved by the federal government. Fifty-eight percent of 497 Alaska schools met the goals this past school year, compared with 42 percent of 488 schools the year before, the state reported.
"The news today is very, very encouraging," said state Education Commissioner Roger Sampson from a press videoconference in Anchorage on Wednesday. "I believe that we're seeing some trends."
Sampson noted that more students took the tests, many schools showed growth, and minorities made more improvement than whites.
At Auke Bay Elementary in Juneau, Alaska Native students did as well as white students. The scores for Natives jumped from two school years ago.
To show adequate yearly progress, Alaska requires that at least 64 percent of a school's students be proficient in reading and writing, which are lumped together in one score, and 56 percent in math.
Schools are judged as a whole and by nine subgroups of students in the test scores and in participation rates in the tests, which are given in grades three through 10.
The subgroups include six ethnic groups - Alaska Native, white, black, American Indian, Asian and Hispanic - plus students with disabilities, students from low-income families, and students with limited English proficiency.
State education officials cautioned against calling schools failures if they didn't meet the goals. Sampson urged parents to look behind the numbers.
In some cases, a school might not have made adequate progress simply because not enough students took the tests. Or a school might be close to meeting the targets.
No Child Left Behind contains consequences for schools that aren't making enough progress. The consequences depend on whether the school receives federal anti-poverty funds and how many years the school hasn't met the targets.
Some Alaska schools are hurting. Fifty schools missed at least eight of the goals. A few schools already are at a level at which they must provide parents with the choice of sending their children to other schools, if that's possible, or consider restructuring the school.
Sampson said the state has no plans to take over any school, but will meet with school officials.
The schools that require the most improvement are small schools in the Bush. They tend to have high staff turnover, so they often have inexperienced teachers, Sampson said. But that's not their biggest problem.
He also cited "a lack of connecting with what schools can and should be able to do, with life after school."
The state made some changes in the way adequate progress is measured, but Sampson said those didn't affect the results by much.
Alaska raised from 20 to 40 the minimum number of students with disabilities or with limited English proficiency that will be counted as a subgroup for a school.
One Juneau school benefited from that rule change.
At Harborview Elementary two years ago, the proficiency rate in English for the 32 students with disabilities didn't meet the target. It was the school's only category that didn't do so. This past year, Harborview's 35 students in that category simply weren't counted as a subgroup.
In general, though, Juneau's elementary schools that didn't meet the targets two school years ago raised their test scores this past year.
This is the second year in a row that Juneau-Douglas High School, Floyd Dryden Middle School and Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School haven't met the targets in some categories.
The only consequences are what the district was doing anyway for all its schools: have an improvement plan.
Peggy Cowan, Juneau School District superintendent, also said the district won't neglect students who aren't doing well even if their school meets the state targets.
The first teacher training this year, before school starts, will focus on how to use data about students to help guide instruction, she said. Teachers also will share what they know about particular students.
The Juneau district doesn't use the adequate yearly progress reports to guide instruction for individual students, said Phil Loseby, coordinator of curriculum and assessment.
The district uses a wider variety of data, including close observations by teachers of students while they read. Still, the reports are useful, Loseby said.
"I do like it. But it's just a piece. It's a snapshot. It tells part of the picture, but it doesn't explain."
Didn't make the grade
The following Juneau schools and programs did not meet state targets for adequate yearly progress in the school year 2003-04:
Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School did not meet targets in English and math among Alaska Natives, the economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities. The school as a whole met adequate yearly progress.
Floyd Dryden Middle School did not meet targets in English and math among students with disabilities. The school as a whole met adequate yearly progress.
Juneau-Douglas High School came close but did not meet participation targets of 95 percent among Alaska Natives, the economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency.
JDHS also did not meet targets in English among those four subgroups. And it did not meet targets in math among students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency.
The school as a whole met adequate yearly progress.
The classroom at the Johnson Youth Center did not meet targets in English and math. It had 11 students.
The district's 56-student correspondence program did not meet participation targets as a whole and among the 43 white students. Its scores on English and math were high.
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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