Schools met most federal targets; AMS to provide tutoringAstoria Middle School flunked requirements of the No Child Left Behind law for the second year in a row, joining 43 other Oregon schools that are subject to sanctions because they failed to meet federal standards.
The Oregon Department of Education unfurled its list of inadequate schools today.
The schools will be required to provide free tutoring to students or a ride to a higher-scoring school within the district. Because there is only one middle school in the district, Astoria will provide tutoring services.
Notably, Astoria Middle School landed on the troubled schools list not because of low test scores - in fact those exceeded requirements - but because the school didn't test enough of its economically disadvantaged and Hispanic students.
The rules require that 95 percent of students in each subpopulation take the tests in math and reading. Astoria Middle School tested roughly 93 percent of its poor students and 94 percent of its Hispanic students.
The school met every other federal performance target, but because its participation level missed the minimum, Astoria Middle School didn't make "adequate yearly progress." AYP designation is basically a gold star; it indicates a school is doing well and keeps it off the troubled schools and watch lists.
Last year, Astoria Middle School didn't make AYP because of its attendance rate.
"It's like playing a game of Monopoly," said Gene Evans, Oregon Department of Education communications director. "You have to do this and this and this, and if they all line up you make AYP. If any one is out of line you 'go to jail.'"
Mike Sowder, Astoria School District superintendent, said it's unfair that an entire building can miss the AYP designation because of the participation score of a single minority group.
"I think there is a big problem with how the federal government designates AYP," he said.
Changes at Astoria Middle School resulting from the sanctions will likely be minimal. Under the law, the district must direct 15 percent of its Title I money - basically federal poverty funds - to tutoring students. However, under the district's current programs, 15 percent or more may be allocated there already.
Other Astoria schools also missed meeting the performance targets this year. Astoria High School failed to meet AYP because it didn't have enough kids take the test. And Capt. Robert Gray Elementary didn't test enough of its economically disadvantaged students.
But these schools won't be slapped on the wrist. Because of Oregon's approach, only schools that accept Title I money face consequences for not getting a good grade. Astoria High School doesn't receive that money, so its only consequence is bad publicity.
Gray Elementary does receive Title I money, however the school met the performance targets last year so it isn't facing sanctions.
"At first glance, this says that it's a negative," Sowder said. "When you really look at it, the schools actually did a good job in academic growth, status and individual testing results."
Sowder said he and his staff will look at the results and figure out a plan to ensure more students take the tests.
In upcoming years, keeping the participation rate high may not be the biggest worry. During this last bout of testing, Oregon schools had to get roughly 40 percent of their students to pass the reading, writing and math tests. Next year it will be 45 percent. By 2014, everyone - low-income, special education and minority students - must pass.
"In Texas, the home of this law, when students weren't passing, they just lowered the score that students needed to pass," Evans said.
Despite concerning test scores, this state board hasn't been willing to lower the standards.
And as the standards increase, so do the sanctions. After three years of failure districts are required to bring in an outside consultant to look at the curriculum. Further down, an under-performing school can be closed, the staffed fired, and the building reopened as a charter school.
SeasideSeaside School District Superintendent Doug Dougherty was pleased with his district's results.
"Right now, we know that academically our school district is extremely strong and we have continued to work and see progress on our academic goals," he said.
Broadway Middle School missed the performance targets because its attendance was one-tenth off the 92 percent minimum. Seaside High School also missed AYP because it didn't test enough of its special education students, and those same students did not pass in math and reading. Special education students must meet the same standards as all other students.
Neither school is facing sanctions.
Like other superintendents, Dougherty emphasized that meeting AYP is only one piece of a school's performance. Its test scores, classroom assignments, work samples, SAT scores and college-bound rate are also indicators of how well a school is doing.
"We use a lot of information to help us get an idea of students' performance rather than one test on one day," he said.
Additionally, coastal districts such as Seaside deal with small student populations, where just a few students can make a tremendous difference in a school's performance.
"Flu can make a big difference in participation," he said.
Warrenton-HammondWhile the grade school made it, at Warrenton High School participation cost the school its AYP designation. Ninety-one percent of students took the test. The school needed 95 percent.
"Our students basically don't get credit for passing the language arts or math," Superintendent Craig Brewington said.
He suggested that the computerized testing program that the kids used may have contributed to the too-low participation rate.
The school had kids who lost information when the system was overloaded and shut down, kids who closed out at the end of the day and weren't able to pick up where they left off later, and kids who didn't get the testing done in time to qualify for scores.
"I think we're going to have a discussion on whether the kids take a pencil and paper test or with the computer system," he said.
Brewington said another problem with the testing is the school district won't get an item analysis of how the students performed on different sections. For example, he would like to see whether the kids are missing algebra, probability or statistics concepts. The current system doesn't allow schools to figure out what ideas the kids aren't grasping so the schools can target those areas.
KnappaThe participation problem nabbed Knappa School District too. Its high school was 1 percent away from reaching the 95 percent minimum participation rate.
"What we think is we have some special needs parents who exempt their kids from testing, but they still count against you when you're looking at participation rate," Superintendent Rick Pass said.
Hilda Lahti Elementary School was able to meet AYP. In reading, the school met the standards under the "safe harbor" provision. If a school makes a 10 percent gain over the last year, even if it doesn't meet the federal target rate, the school can still earn AYP.
Principal Paula Mills said there is room for growth and progression in reading at Hilda Lahti, but the school has a lot of things going for it already.
"We have a very dedicated staff and a small enough school population you can look at and get to know each kid very well," she said.
JewellLast year Jewell School had 100 percent participation, but this year the school failed to meet AYP because of the participation clause.
"It seems like we had a group that we didn't test," Superintendent John Seeley said. "We aren't positive of the reasons and we're looking into it."
Seeley said other reasons might have contributed to the school's decline in participation rate. In addition to a group of eighth graders possibly missing the test, the school might have had students in advanced classes, such as math, who didn't take the tests with the rest of their grade. There are also potential problems with students' social security numbers not matching up with their attendance records, which would create an error.
Also, students who move into the district are counted as needing to take the test, even if they move in after a testing section is closed or move away before the testing is complete.