Middle school hits state mark for first time

Floyd Dryden improved special math, language arts scores by at least 10 percent

Posted: Friday, October 14, 2005

Floyd Dryden Middle School is making progress.

For the first time since the state began requiring all schools to reach Adequate Yearly Progress marks three years ago, Floyd Dryden has met the student proficiency cutoff percentage required under the federal guidelines of the No Child Left Behind Act.

"The previous two years we did not make AYP because all 31 of our subgroups did not meet the proficiency cutoff percentage," said Principal Tom Milliron.

"Specifically, we weren't meeting in math and language arts for our special education subgroup." The school met the goal during the last testing period by improving special education math and language arts scores by 10 percent or more.

The subgroups are made up of students of different backgrounds, including language, ethnicity and economics. The groups include Hispanic, students with disabilities, African Americans and more.

This is the first year in three years of AYP tracking that all 31 subgroups have met the goals, Milliron said. "In the past we have had 29 of our 31 subgroups."

There are several classifications for schools to meet AYP. The schools that have fewer than 40 students with disabilities are not put into the same class as the schools such as Floyd Dryden, which has more. That makes Floyd Dryden's goals tougher, he said.

"A lot of schools don't make AYP because our challenged students are held at the same bar of achievement as the regular ed(ucation) students," said Milliron. "So it's a real challenge for kids and for teachers and for schools."

Les Morse, director of assessment and accountability for the Alaska Department of Education, said students with disabilities are required under state law to reach the same levels of proficiency on the standardized tests as the rest of the students.

"I think the intent of special education is to provide accommodation so they can progress equally. ... That's what we want for our kids," he said.

Morse said students are classified as special education students in 14 categories, which include learning disabilities, sight disabilities and mobility issues. He said those with significant disabilities, about 1 or 2 percent of the population, are given separate standardized tests.

Floyd Dryden did not reach the proficiency levels designated by the state, but due to a "safe harbor" clause they were able to reach the AYP designation by increasing the special education scores by 10 percent. Neither Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School nor Juneau-Douglas High School, which both have 40 or more students with disabilities, made AYP for the 2004-2005 school year.

"Floyd Dryden is one of four middle schools in the state of Alaska to meet AYP that has a countable special education subgroup," Milliron said.

Goldenview Middle School in Anchorage, Soldotna Middle School, and Blatchley Middle School in Juneau were the other three under the same classification. West Valley High School in Fairbanks was the lone high school in the state to reach AYP requirements with 40 or more students with disabilities.

The number increases significantly for the schools with a smaller population of students with disabilities, Morse said.

"We had about 59 percent of the schools statewide meet Adequate Yearly Progress," he said.

Milliron said there are multiple things that the school has done over the last several years to see that all subgroups are achieving the goals.

He said they have expanded a schoolwide reading program, expanded advanced language arts and math classes, put more students with disabilities in core classes, and hired more highly qualified teachers.

"Another attributing factor is student decorum in general," Milliron said. "If you walk through Floyd Dryden it is an environment that I feel is conducive to academic achievement and those kids are held to pretty high expectations when it comes to student decorum, appropriate behaviors and academic achievements and expectations."

Milliron said the middle school's achievements are the achievements of the entire school district. He said all the schools in the district should celebrate the achievements of the district.

"We're doing everything we can to close achievement gaps," said Milliron. "Not by lowering the achievement of one subgroup, but maintaining or increasing your top subgroups while significantly increasing the subgroups that aren't performing as well on the standardized tests."

He said closing these gaps benefits all Alaskans.

"I think it benefits the community and the state as a whole in that we are focusing on all our kids and we are doing what we can to increase achievement for all subgroups regardless of their current achievement level," he said.

The tests determining AYP results for this school year for Juneau's middle school students will be held April 11 through 13.

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