SD2 shows improvement, still struggles to meet NCLB goals

2012-08-10T00:00:00Z 2012-08-10T16:57:06Z SD2 shows improvement, still struggles to meet NCLB goalsBy ROB ROGERS The Billings Gazette

The good news is more SD2 schools hit their federal testing requirements this year than last year — 16 in all made the mark, and a handful of them are in some of Billings most impovershed neighborhoods.

The bad news? All of three of School District 2's high schools and two of its middle schools did not meet the goals. Eight elementary schools also missed their targets.

Still, test scores continue to improve throughout most classrooms in the district, and SD2 is making enough progress that the state approves the path the district is on.

"We've got confirmation from the state that we're doing what we need to do," said Roger Webber-Dereszynski, SD2's assessment director.

Schools were required this year to show that 89.6 percent of their students were proficient in reading at grade level and that 80 percent of their students were proficient at math.

The requirement applies both to a school's all-student average and to its smaller subgroups, broken down by ethnicity, disability and family income.

If a school's subgroup misses the mark even though the all-student average is high enough, the school fails to make the cut.

Known as Adequate Yearly Progress, the percentage requirements increase yearly until 2014, when 100 percent of students will be required to be reading and performing in math at or above their grade level.

The required increase was minimal this year. Montana's Office of Public Instruction applied for safe-harbor status from the U.S. Department of Education, meaning schools could still meet AYP goals if they made gains on last year's numbers.

The 16 schools to make AYP include Burlington, Miles Avenue, Poly Drive, Newman, Central Heights, Bitterroot, Ponderosa, Arrowhead, Big Sky, Highland, Rose Park, Boulder, Meadowlark, Beartooth and Alkali Creek elementary schools and Lewis and Clark Middle School.

At the top was Arrowhead, where 99 percent of its students were reading at or above grade level and 90 percent were completing math at or above grade level.

In stark contrast was Orchard Elementary.

Orchard has one of the district's highest rates of students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals — the federal government's method for quantifying student poverty — and slid further down from where it was last year to the bottom of the list.

In student reading proficiency, the school dropped a point to 74 percent and its math proficiency rate dropped five points to 51 percent — both rates by far the lowest in the district.

Among the middle schools, Lewis and Clark — the only one to make AYP — had 91 percent of its students proficient at reading and 76 percent proficient at math.

Will James scored better in the all-student average for proficiency rates — 95 percent proficient in reading and 80 proficient in math — but saw the proficiency rates of some of its student subgroups drop. As a result, the school did not meet its AYP goal.

At Castle Rock, 96 percent of the students were proficient in reading and 71 percent were proficient with math. At Riverside, 88 percent of the students were proficient in reading and 58 percent were proficient in math.

In the high schools, graduation rates along with reading and math scores are factored into AYP goals.

West High scored the highest. In reading, 89 percent of its students were proficient and 78 percent were proficent in math. The school has an 81 percent graduation rate.

Senior High has 89 percent of its students testing proficient in reading and 71 percent testing proficient in math. It has a 73 percent graduation rate.

Skyview High has 87 percent of its students testing proficient in reading and 67 percent testing proficient in math. It has a 79 percent graduation rate.

Schools that fail to make AYP are required to send letters home to students and their parents, informing them of the missed goal. The families are given the option of requesting extra scholastic help or transfering to a school that made its AYP goals.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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