Nearly half of schools miss mark under No Child

Published 9:25 am Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nearly half the schools in Minnesota failed to hit the goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind law in 2010, the same number as the previous year even as those goals got more difficult to meet. The Minnesota Department of Education released the 2010 results Tuesday evening. Of the 2,291 schools in the program, 1,048 didn’t make “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP. The same number of schools missed the mark in 2009.

Under the 2002 federal law, schools must show they are continually making progress toward having all their students proficient at their grade level in reading and math by 2014. Yearly testing begins in third grade and continues into high school.

Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said education officials had expected the number of the schools failing to make AYP to increase as the law required ever higher percentages of students to show proficiency in reading and math.

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“We are holding ground as we are moving toward this 2014 deadline,” she said. “I think that is relatively good news.”

Seagren said other states are seeing increases in the numbers of schools failing to make AYP. However, it’s difficult to make direct comparisons between states because each state sets is own academic standards and determines its own passing rate.

“We have high standards,” Seagren said. “We certainly haven’t gamed the system in Minnesota.”

Jack Jennings, president of the independent, Washington-based Center on Education Policy, said she’s correct that experts predict a greater share of schools will fall short of the law’s goals as the 2014 deadline nears.

“If Minnesota has held steady, that is an accomplishment. It’s very hard to maintain test score gains from year to year,” Jennings said. “It’s something to be proud of, note, then get back to work and raise percentages even higher.”

Schools that repeatedly fail to make adequate progress face consequences. There are 342 of them in Minnesota this year. Some districts will pay to bus students to better schools or provide free tutoring. Nineteen schools are preparing to be restructured.

Parents can check out the Education Department’s website to see how their child’s school did. Seagren said parents should carefully examine the data, because if even one subgroup in a school falls short — like English language learners — the whole school can fail to make AYP. Low attendance and graduation rates can also land a school on the underperforming list.

“I think parents just need to ask the questions,” she said. “Don’t write your school off because some students aren’t performing and sufficient level.”

Junior high and middle schools around the state had the most trouble in 2010, with 60 percent of them missing the mark. High schools did better, with 44 percent falling short.

“I think that middle school has been an area that has kind of been ignored,” Seagren said, adding that the department plans new middle-school programs. “We’ve focused on ’everybody reads by third grade’ and our STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) high schools, but we really need to look at that middle school preparation.”

The district said 183 schools didn’t have enough data to determine if they met the federal law’s goals. Many of the those schools were special programs that didn’t teach students for a full nine-month year, including programs for children with long-term health problems.