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Fewer schools meet No Child Left Behind benchmarks in 2011

By Molly Farmer | Posted - Aug. 31, 2011 at 9:16 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Slightly fewer Utah schools met No Child Left Behind testing benchmarks in 2011 than in 2010, despite Utah receiving a federal reprieve that meant testing standards would not increase as planned.

Seventy-eight percent of Utah's more than 1,000 schools met benchmarks last year under the No Child Left Behind Act. That's down slightly from 79 percent in 2010.

Under the federal law, schools nationwide are tasked with having a certain percentage of students meet testing benchmarks in math and language arts, with those benchmarks increasing annually toward 100 percent proficiency in those subjects by 2014. Those benchmarks are designed to show that a school has made "adequate yearly progress" toward the 100 percent goal.


Seventy-eight percent of Utah's more than 1,000 schools met benchmarks last year under the No Child Left Behind Act. That's down slightly from 79 percent in 2010.

John Jesse, testing director at the State Office of Education, said that as it becomes more and more difficult for schools to reach AYP, fewer will be able to keep up and the number of Utah schools not meeting AYP will increase.

"You always hope to be improving, but it's a pretty big ship to move along," he said.

But there are schools that improve from one year to the next. Doxy ELementary in the Davis district, Grand County High and Ogden High all improved, making AYP for 2011 despite failing to in 2010.

Each state has a detailed plan for increasing proficiency up until that 2014 deadline, and the testing benchmarks for Utahns were supposed to increase for the 2010-11 school year. As the state moves to a new core curriculum, however, state educators talked with federal educators and decided not increase the benchmarks last year as planned.

"They agreed with us to not increase it again this year," Jesse said.

School districts like Alpine in Utah County — which had 10 elementary schools and one high school not make AYP — can have a difficult time communicating to the public why schools didn't make the grade, spokeswoman Rhonda Bromley said.

That's because a school's success is based on 40 different categories, and if one subcategory, such as students with disabilities or those who are economically disadvantaged, doesn't make AYP, then the entire school doesn't make AYP.


We want to focus, No. 1, on the communication of what this means. If the school didn't make it, what are the reasons? And No. 2, what are our goals to make sure that we continue to make improvement.

–Rhonda Bromley, Alpine School District


"We want to focus, No. 1, on the communication of what this means," Bromley said. "If the school didn't make it, what are the reasons? And No. 2, what are our goals to make sure that we continue to make improvement."

In order for schools housing third- through eighth-graders to meet AYP in 2011, 83 percent of students needed to test on grade level in language arts, while 45 percent needed to in math, Jesse said.

In schools with 10th through 12th graders, 82 percent needed to test proficient in language arts and 40 percent in math.

There have been talks at the federal level of significantly changing the NCLB law in order to make it more realistic for U.S. schools, but nothing has come to fruition yet, Jesse said. If changes aren't made at the national level, it's likely there will be a drop in the number of Utah schools achieving AYP in coming years, he said.

"This is probably the last reasonable year," he said of the AYP expectations.

Jesse said that while educators and administrators care deeply about annual AYP results, parents aren't usually as concerned with how their child's school is doing as they are with how their individual child is doing.

"What parents care about is if their school is serving their child's needs," he said. "That's what parents should be most concerned about."

Title 1 schools — those that receive additional federal funding based on low-income student populations — are the only schools that receive a status of "needs improvement," if they don't make AYP for two consecutive years. Those schools have to implement specific programs like after school tutoring in order to improve. This year, 17 Title 1 schools need improvement — that's out of about 250 Title 1 schools total, said Ann White, Title 1 coordinator at the Utah State Office of Education.

"That's pretty good when you stop and think about it because those are our highest poverty schools, typically," White said.

Jesse said the results are "reflective of good instruction good curriculum, good learning."

Email:mfarmer@ksl.com

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