Districts' AYP results improving, work remains

Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2010

Administrators in the Juneau School District are optimistic, given the trend more schools are meeting Adequate Yearly Progress and more students are improving.

However, the administration realizes there is a lot of work to be done.

Six of the district's 14 schools passed AYP this year. This is up from five schools last year and four the year prior. There are 31 categories schools are rated on and inadequate proficiency in even one category means that school fails to meet AYP.

Most schools failed because of insufficient proficiency in language arts or math for students in Alaska Native, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged or English language learner categories. Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School missed marks in those tests, and because of its graduation rate. Johnson Youth Center failed for its graduation rate.

"District-wide we have met 94 percent of the individual indicators," said Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich. "Six percent haven't. That's an interesting definition of not meeting something."

Six schools had a combined 13 categories that passed because of Safe Harbor, which means the overall average scores failed to meet AYP's normal standards, but since they improved 10 percent or more over the prior year it's considered a pass.

Schools that met AYP were: Riverbend Elementary, Mendenhall River Community School, Juneau Community Charter School, Auke Bay Elementary, Glacier Valley Elementary and Gastineau Elementary. Riverbend and Gastineau did not meed AYP last year, but inmproved to meet it this year. No other JSD schools satisfied all 31 categories.

In a statewide picture, 302 schools of 505 passed AYP - nearly 60 percent, according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. This is an increase of 3.6 percent over last year. Forty-two schools that struggled in the past made AYP two years in a row, taking them off the AYP consequence list. Eighty schools that didn't meet AYP last year were proficient this year.

Gelbrich said the AYP results represent a global picture. The test results that have greater meaning to the district - the Alaska Standards Based Assessments - are slated to be released in about a week, she said.

However, AYP does give a glimpse at what specifically needs to be improved.

"I think there's reason to be optimistic about the results," Gelbrich said. "They're stable or improved. We're interested in getting into greater detail on a site level and skill level of the students. Those who have already mastered them and for those that haven't, what are they struggling with? What portion are they struggling in? That's where we can provide the support."

Each school site is having team meetings with principals, a leadership team and staff to go through data and state tests to see what the problems are. Patty Newman, curriculum director, said they want to break down to see if there's a reading problem, and what that problem's roots might be. Once the district knows that, it can focus on improving those elements for students.

Assistant Superintendent Laury Scandling said that even if a school or a sector is deemed proficient through testing, that doesn't mean every single student is proficient.

"Every single kid who isn't proficient or at grade level is a concern to us," she said.

Philip Loseby, district assessment evaluation information manager, said AYP testing starts at third grade, but he noted that they can't wait until third grade to work with students in areas they struggle with.

Loseby said there are three categories the district has typically failed with: economically disadvantaged, special needs and Alaska Natives.

Gelbrich said the district needs to look harder at those groups of students and see if there are patterns in where they aren't proficient.

"We look at it as an indicator of success with all our kids," he said. "We own that. Kids and families need to be a part of that, but it's our job."

AYP is difficult to meet because of the high number of ways a district can fail and because the standard keeps increasing. Up until now, the proficiency level increased for Alaska schools every three years. Until 2014, that will increase each year so the district will need to push harder each year to be proficient.

Gelbrich said there are nine initiatives the district has implemented or will start to create a pathway so students can improve and achieve proficiency. One of the plans includes bringing school standards up above state standards. Gelbrich said they have recalibrated math and literacy standards, now it just needs to be vetted by staff. Another element focuses on quality of instruction -making sure each teacher is providing relevant material and that students are learning what is taught.

Several plans - like the professional development plan, strategic plan, student achievement plan and others - are benchmarks for how the district office will support the schools and teachers to help students improve.

Other things being implemented include early release Mondays, where the students are released twice a month one hour early so teachers can collaborate and focus on individual student achievement.

Another is a school summit on 6 p.m. Thursday at Thunder Mountain High School. The summit will feature a district overview and individual "school report cards" that share with the community and families how they're doing. There is a half hour general session and then half hour sessions for individual schools. The district hopes people will attend for an interactive dialog to gain family perceptions.

• Contact Sarah Day at 523-2279 or sarah.day@juneauempire.com

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