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Schools struggle to meet test standards

Four out of 10 schools in city met all federal proficiency stipulations

Posted: Monday, August 11, 2008

Schools in the Juneau School District continued to struggle to meet all of the federally imposed standards for student achievement last school year, according to data released by the state.

Four of Juneau's 10 schools met all the proficiency requirements under the "No Child Left Behind" act, a federal law aimed at improving education standards that relies on standardized tests to measure performance. Auke Bay Elementary, Glacier Valley Elementary, Juneau Community Charter School and Floyd Dryden Middle School met the requirements.

"The bottom line, not as many schools as we'd like met (adequate yearly progress)," said Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan, referring to the standard NCLB to measure school performance.

Under NCLB, schools are rated as either having made adequate yearly progress or not.

A school's rating is determined by how students of various racial and economic groups fare on standardized math and language arts tests, along with other measurable factors like a school's attendance rate.

A school that misses one out of up to 31 possible subcategories is rated as having not made adequate yearly progress. Harborview Elementary, Mendenhall River Community School and Riverbend Elementary missed the adequate yearly progress rating by one subcategory - the number of economically disadvantaged students proficient in language arts.

Schools had to have a higher percentage of proficient students this year than in previous years in both the language arts and math assessments to make adequate yearly progress.

Cowan said the district's results showed some encouraging signs that the district was making strides in certain areas, including efforts to bolster the scores of students in special education.

Several schools, whose special education students didn't show adequate yearly progress two school years ago, improved those scores to meet the guidelines.

"I'm glad to see those areas that we have improved, and we are planning on learning from those areas," Cowan said.

Cowan said she also was pleased that the graduation rate of Juneau-Douglas High School, which has failed to make adequate yearly progress for several years, jumped 9 percentage points from last year to 74 percent, according to the state's data.

Cowan and state officials said NCLB measurements, though important, are an incomplete picture of how schools are performing.

"Our vision has to be much broader; we want more for our children," state Department of Education and Early Development Commissioner Larry LeDoux said at a news conference last week.

Under NCLB, the state can replace staff and teachers at schools that receive federal anti-poverty funds and fail to make adequate yearly progress after several years.

The state does not have as much power to intervene with schools that receive no such federal funds, like the majority of those in Juneau, and don't make adequate yearly progress.

LeDoux said the state was eager to work with school districts to improve test scores but could offer no quick fixes. He said solutions for troubled schools should be sought locally.

• Contact reporter Alan Sudermanat 523-2268 or e-mail alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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