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School district improves in math, but fails federal test

Four of 12 Juneau schools passed all 31 areas of exam

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2007

The Juneau School District announced Thursday it failed to pass the federal test created under the No Child Left Behind Act for the 2006-07 school year.

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It was not alone. Statewide, 172 schools failed the federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress test.

Reading scores were a primary reason for Juneau's districtwide failure.

There are 31 ways for a school to fail the test and only one way to pass, a positive mark in all 31 categories. Failure requires just one negative.

"While the Juneau School District did not meet all of the 31 measures again this year, both individual schools and the district as a whole have made progress," Superintendent Peggy Cowan said.

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell on Thursday called the test "flawed." He said results were actually good statewide. State results show that 326 Alaska schools passed this year, 19 more than the previous year.

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No school in the Juneau district is under sanction for failing to meet the requirements, Cowan said.

For the 2006-07 testing period, four of 12 Juneau schools passed all 31 areas of the curriculum-based test: the Juneau Community Charter School, Auke Bay, Gastineau and Glacier Valley elementary schools.

The four-school passing rate held steady from the prior year, 2005-06, when four Juneau schools also passed the test.

Improvements were evident in Juneau's AYP math test results. Ten schools passed this year.

The 2006-07 test results released by the Juneau School District did not include percentages based on test category or grade-level proficiency.

"It's pass or fail," Cowan said.

According to school district charts, the recent failure rate comes from students with disabilities testing below proficient levels in reading and writing at four elementary schools. Additionally, students with disabilities failed both reading and writing, and math at Harborview and Riverbend elementary schools.

Cowan said students with disabilities traditionally perform poorly on standardized tests. Acknowledging that federal requirement must be met, Cowan said, "We have to find each student's strengths."

Parnell cautioned against looking at the results as only a pass or fail.

"Look at why," he said.

Preliminary 2006-07 Standards Based Assessment results available from the state show that 27 percent of Juneau-Douglas ninth-graders were not proficient in reading and writing. Thirty-one percent failed math.

Last year, the district performed poorly in math, according to the federal test results. Only 52 percent of Alaska Native and "economically challenged" students were deemed proficient.

"The last couple of years staff has focused on math," said Cowan.

New text books and staff development lifted math scores districtwide she said. The two schools that failed to meet the math requirement in 2006-07 passed all student categories except one, "students with disabilities."

District response to the 2006-07 AYP and SBA testing results is expected during the Aug. 14 School Board meeting and should continue into the fall.

"Answers have to come from the schools first. We have to analyze the date to see what it says about trends," Cowan said.

The School District was listed at AYP Level Three for the 2005-06 school year. That ranking required the district to prepare educational improvement plans. Cowan said she did not know what the new ranking is.

"The district's plans for high schools and individual school improvement plans are geared toward making changes that will help student achievement and participation," Cowan said. "We hope parents and community members will ask questions and get involved in meetings we have scheduled this fall to discuss district plans and progress."

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.



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