An explanation of the Albert Lea AYP status

Published 1:51 pm Saturday, September 27, 2008

This article is not to make excuses, but to inform the readers about why our district has had difficulties in making Annual Yearly Progress as dictated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

For the school year of 2008-2009 nearly half the school districts in the state had schools that did not meet the expectations of mandate. Why so many? One reason is, of course, that the percentage of students who must pass these tests gets higher every year from now through 2014 when 100 percent of students must pass these tests. Even doing as well as last year isn’t good enough. But currently that’s not the biggest reason why many districts or a school within a district is on the list.

A more likely reason they are on the list is that not all schools and school districts in the state are created equally. Some communities are growing, some communities are very wealthy, some communities have a variety of cultures and some have very little cultural diversity. There are many reasons and ways in which counties and the schools and districts within them differ.

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Albert Lea Area Schools have more of the nine NCLB-identified groups than surrounding smaller communities. The nine groups include the five ethnic groups plus limited English proficient, special education, free and reduced price meals, and “all” students. It takes 20 or more students in a specific demographic, like Hispanic or students living in poverty or special education students, to become an identified group to count for AYP. There are 45 subcategories that the district students are judged by. All schools and districts have the same categories, so what’s different?

Below are some reasons Albert Lea and Freeborn County are unique.

The data can be found at, part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which is committed to helping vulnerable children and their families.

Our district rates higher in poverty compared to other districts across the state. We have 13 percent of our students living in poverty. The state average is 11.6 percent. Other school districts that are also above the state average in poverty are also struggling to make AYP.

Two percent of students in Freeborn County live in “Out-of-Home Placements.” The state average is 1.2 percent.

Eight out of every 1,000 children in Freeborn County are abused or neglected compared to the state average of five per 1,000.

Freeborn County also has 4 percent more students enrolled in special education classes than the Minnesota state average.

As you can see, not all counties and school districts in Minnesota are created equally.

Despite these statistics, we have made many improvements. The high school made its AYP goals in all 45 categories. Halverson elementary went from not making AYP in three of 45 categories to passing in those three categories, but, sadly, not making AYP in a different category.

In every school building, and at the district level, in the “all” students category, we continue to make AYP, despite the fact that percentages of students needing to pass is increasing.

We have tough challenges ahead of us. Fortunately, we have a dedicated and hard-working staff that is up to facing the challenge.

The district leaders have worked very hard to create an action plan to address the concerns raised by the Minnesota Comprehensive Tests.

The plans are implemented this year.

Media across the state and nation like to say that schools are failing, again, when actually, we have shown improvement in many areas and we continue to focus diligently on those student groups that need more help to succeed. One administrator likens AYP to trying to hold corks under water. Just when you think you have them under control, a different one pops up.

Believe me, it is a top priority of the school board, the administration, principals and staff that our district make AYP in as many categories as possible at each school and at the district level but also that our students make progress based on all our local data, not just the MCA-IIs. We celebrate all our students’ successes in all the different ways they show us what they have learned, what they know and what they can do.