Half of Minnesota schools tagged as poor performersST. PAUL — Minnesota crept closer Monday to having half of its schools tagged as poor performers.
By: Associated Press, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL (AP) — Minnesota crept closer Monday to having half of its schools tagged as poor performers.
The roster of public schools failing to make adequate progress under the federal No Child Behind law hit 1,048 out of the 2,114 for which the state had enough data to fully assess. An additional 189 schools got no rating because of insufficient data.
The number of faltering schools rose by 12.5 percent over last year. The designation puts more schools in the position of having to divert portions of their federal allowances to outside tutoring, to pay to bus students who transfer schools or to replace staff.
But the figures, which were released Monday by the state, don’t tell the whole story.
Minnesota adopted a tougher set of standards than some states, which helps explain why its list of struggling schools is seven times longer than one in neighboring Wisconsin. The federal law demands regular testing everywhere but gives states freedom to write those exams and determine what constitutes passage.
“We’re not looking at our next-door neighbors. We’re looking at how kids are doing in other countries because we know our kids are going to be expected to compete when they get out of college or into the world of work,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said. “We’re not going to tell our kids they’re doing well and then not educate them to those high expectations.”
To state Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, the notion that Minnesota lags states such as Oregon and Alabama doesn’t square with reality. Both have much shorter lists of struggling schools.
“There’s no way you can say that Minnesota schools are not doing a good job,” said Stumpf, a Democrat who leads the Senate Education Committee. “That’s the problem with putting a measurement tool in place that isn’t the same from state to state.”
Seagren said she was heartened by a drop in high schools on the watch list. There were 32 fewer high schools that missed achievement, graduation or attendance goals. However, the turnaround was offset by the addition of 63 more elementary schools on the list.
The 2002 federal law requires schools to lift achievement for all students, not just the school average. So a school with a high average test score can land on the list if its limited English speakers didn’t reach a testing goal or if special education students fell short of expectations. The goal is universal proficiency in math and reading by 2014.
For the first time, Minnesota’s list included specialized vocational schools and schools that teach children only through second grade even though the tests that drive school designations don’t begin until third grade.
Seagren said the shift will hold teachers accountable for younger students before the students are in the testing fold.
The newly assessed schools mirrored the overall picture, with a roughly 50 percent success rate among those where there was sufficient data to categorize them.
For school leaders, the annual roster release is nerve-racking. There are more than three dozen ways to attract the underperformer label — and it only takes one slip-up to be put on notice. Of the schools identified this year, 487 were on the list for a single problem.