More than half of the schools in Billings’ District 2 did not meet federal progress requirements, according to data released Friday by the state.
According to the report, which detailed compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, 11 of the 29 Billings schools have met the required goals for Adequate Yearly Progress.
Of the 18 schools that did not achieve AYP goals, seven failed for the first time this year. The remaining 11 of those 18 have failed to make their AYP goals for multiple years. The 18 schools falling short include all three of the district’s high schools, its four middle schools and 11 elementary schools.
The results are a concern, said Superintendent Keith Beeman, who started at the district on July 1. But he doesn’t want to get stuck focusing on just one indicator of school progress.
“I do not want AYP to be the sum measure of student success in this district,” he said.
The more important task for the district is ensuring the growth and progress of the individual student.
“We all want all of our children to succeed,” Beeman said.
That happens when schools prepare students to meet their goals once they graduate — be it acceptance to a four-year university, enrollment in a trade school, service in the military or some other pursuit, he said.
Under No Child Left Behind, AYP measures the percentage of students testing at grade-level or above in math and English. Each year, the required percentage increases until 2014 when 100 percent of the school’s student body must test at grade level or above.
This year, 83 percent of students needed to be testing at grade-level or above in reading. For math, 68 percent of students had to be at that level.
Also affecting a school’s compliance is the progress of smaller groups of students within the main student body identified by their economic conditions or race. A schoolwide average of students testing at grade-level or above may be within the year’s AYP requirements. But if one of the school’s smaller groups falls below the required percentage, the entire school fails to meet AYP.
Gail Surwill, the district’s director of curriculum, said SD2 schools have a number of programs available to help them reach low-performing students.
“There are some great things that we have that are working,” she said.
On that point, Beeman wanted to be clear.
“This district is not broken,” he said. “It does not need to be fixed.”
Rather, he said, schools need to focus on those things that are working and build on them. Ultimately, he said, it’s not the program that’s going to get a student to NCLB compliance, it’s the teachers.
The district will use the data provided by the AYP results to help teachers know just how best to reach their struggling students.
Beeman encouraged parents to get involved in their child’s education and to hold their schools accountable. He told them not to be afraid to ask questions of their teachers and principals and to volunteer to help in the classroom.
“We just need to increase that level of parental involvement,” he said.
The district needs to focus on the complete success of the child. AYP, he said, only highlights one part of that.
“I don’t believe this is the correct definition of success,” he said.
Looking at the effort teachers are making to help students, Beeman said the district’s schools are doing the right things.
“Our schools are successful,” he said.
Contact Rob Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 657-1231.