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11 regional districts miss AYP

WORTHINGTON -- Eleven southwest Minnesota school districts failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year, according to results released Friday by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

These 11 districts joined 329 school districts statewide that failed to make AYP, bringing the percentage of Minnesota school districts not making the standard to almost 64 percent.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, AYP represents the benchmark for student achievement based on state-level assessments.

It measures math and reading levels of overall students in a school, students in each ethnic group, English-language learners and students receiving free and reduced-price meals.

Each subgroup in each school must meet safe harbor targets showing sufficient improvement in math and reading for the school district to be on track for AYP. Schools receive a point for every student who meets or exceeds proficiency rates and half a point for each student who partially meets the standard. These points are equivalent to the target, set by the state, which must continue to rise to 100 percent by 2014, as mandated by NCLB.

This year, the MDE adjusted targets to a lower standard to accommodate for a new, more rigorous math assessment test, MCA-III, which was taken for the first time last year by third- through eighth-graders.

Schools that fail to make AYP will be subject to sanctions according to federal law. The MDE requested a temporary waiver on certain mandates of NCLB on Aug. 16, but the request was not acted upon by the U.S. Department of Education.

The NCLB has long been considered flawed by educators, including Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius.

"Labeling schools as 'failures' or imposing one-size-fits-all mandates is a flawed way to address the unique challenges facing some of our school," Cassellius said in a press release.

Of the 11 school districts that missed the mark this year, three did not meet state standards last year -- District 518 in Worthington, Brewster and Murray County Central.

District 518

This is the fourth year District 518 did not make AYP.

Prairie Elementary and Worthington High School met targets for overall student performance in math and reading. Tammy Timko, the district's coordinator for teaching and learning, said improvement was made made this year at Prairie Elementary in comparison to the previous year.

Last year, all subgroups at Prairie except for white students were below the targets. Timko said only four subgroups did not meet the target this year.

"I know they've been working really hard to implement best practices like SIOP and co-teaching," Timko said. "That shows us that those were good moves."

SIOP is a program that focuses on language acquisition, while co-teaching is a teaching model in which an ELL teacher is paired with the class teacher to accommodate needs of ELL students.

"People always hear about did you make AYP or not, instead of are you improving or not," she added.

Schools that do not make AYP in four consecutive years for reading or math are subject to corrective action under federal requirements. Since this is the fourth year the district missed AYP, one of the corrective actions will be for Prairie Elementary to set aside 20 percent of Title I money, a federal fund, to provide additional tutoring to lower achieving students.

"Generally, you want to use that title money in the early grades to make the biggest impact," Timko said, explaining why most the district's Title I money is allocated to Prairie.

Included in the corrective action is a restructuring plan that the school and the district will need to submit to MDE.

"When you have a district with increasing enrollment of students from different education backgrounds compared to a district with a stable student population, it's difficult to expect both districts to perform at the same level," Timko added.

"In the end, that (high performance level) should be our goal no matter who our students are, but it's going to take some time for them to get there," she continued. "Our state tests expect them to get there in one year, and that's unrealistic."

Round Lake-Brewster

While Round Lake High School is on track for AYP, Brewster Elementary did not hit all of the the targets this year.

"We were proficient in all areas but one -- free and reduced lunch for reading," said principal Ray Hassings.

Overall, he said, the school was making significant gains in both math and reading.

"We missed safe harbor target by one point which means one student," he added.


MCC, for the second consecutive year, did not make the AYP because one subgroup -- elementary level special education -- did not meet the target for math.

"It's very frustrating because the AYP does not paint a true picture of the school district," Superintendent Summer Schultz said.

Typically, she said, the district scores above state average in accountability tests. This year, MCC fell 2 percent below the overall state average of 56 percent for math, but exceeded the state average in reading and science.

"Realistically until the NCLB is gone or the waiver goes through, schools will be failing," Schultz added.