Most Juneau schools graded below average

Four meet federal requirements; many barely miss mark

Posted: Sunday, August 13, 2006

Juneau schools are below the state average in meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to the "adequate yearly progress" numbers released Friday by the state.

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Four of Juneau's 12 schools, or about 33 percent, met the standards for the 2005-2006 school year. Of 497 Alaskan public schools assessed, 304, or approximately 61 percent, met them for the same year. The numbers are generated from assessment tests given each spring.

Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan said those statistics can be misleading because no other district in the state is of comparative size. She said different-sized communities have different types of challenges in meeting the requirements.

"Districtwide we are improving," Cowan said. "We have more students meeting AYP than we did last year. We still have more students that aren't proficient than we would like, but we are committed to improving student achievement at every school in the district."

Auke Bay Elementary, Glacier Valley Elementary, Mendenhall River School and Riverbend Elementary all met the federal requirements for the 2005-2006 school year. Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, Floyd Dryden Middle School, Gastineau Elementary, Harborview Elementary, Johnson Youth Center, Juneau Community Charter School, Juneau District Correspondence and Juneau-Douglas High School did not meet the standards.

Cowan said the majority of the Juneau schools that did not meet the requirements just slightly missed the mark. Schools are required to hit 31 targets to meet federal standards. The targets include participation and math and language arts proficiency for the entire school. Targets also are set for subgroups, which include the major ethnic groups, special education students and the economically disadvantaged population.

"Seven of the eight schools that didn't meet AYP did not meet by one or two (targets)," Cowan said.

JDHS hit the lowest percentage of targets for any of the Juneau schools. It made 18 of the 31 targets, or 58 percent, required for meeting the standards.

"Any large school with a diversity of students is going to have challenges in getting all of their students to meet them," Cowan said. "JDHS is focused on reform and JDHS is focused right now on rigor, in terms of their curriculum."

Alaska Department of Education and Early Development Commissioner Roger Sampson said at a press conference Friday the state is steadily working to meet the federal requirements. He said the state is up from 58.8 percent of the schools meeting the requirements last year to 61.2 percent this year.

"From the statewide perspective that is a significant increase," Sampson said.

Just because a school didn't meet the requirements does not mean the school is a failure, he said.

"We have schools that are not meeting AYP consistently that are very high-performing schools," Sampson said.

Phil Loseby, curriculum and assessment coordinator for the Juneau School District, said there have been significant improvements in language arts in Juneau this past year, including the schools that didn't meet the standards. The number of students in the district demonstrating proficiency in the subject rose to 82 percent, up from 79 percent the previous year.

"I really want to celebrate those accomplishments and the growth of the students," Loseby said.

The students in the district demonstrating proficiency in math remained the same at 72 percent.

Sampson said he believes teachers and administrators should continue to focus on student proficiency on a grade-by-grade basis to continue seeing improvements to the statistics throughout the state.

"We need to get all of them to pay attention to the grade-level expectation, use their terrific skills and their great innovative, creative ideas to deliver it," he said.

Sampson said it takes an entire school to pull together to meet the requirements.

"We need to engage more of our high school staff, the ones that don't teach language arts and mathematics, because the entire school is resting on the shoulders of approximately 15 percent of the teachers in those comprehensive high schools," he said.

Although schools can face certain repercussions for not meeting the federal requirements, such as the loss of funding, Cowan said Juneau does not have to worry about that right now.

"None of the Juneau schools are in the sanction situation from the state at this point," she said. "We want students to be successful, so we will continue to work to have all the schools in the district meet the state and federal targets. That's a given."

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