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More Than Half of California Schools Meet Federal Target

Ohanian Comment: This is a freight train going over a cliff. Has anyone looked at the curve required to get 100" schools meeting their targets? Or even close?"

Nearly half of schools statewide, including those in the San Fernando Valley and the rest of the Los Angeles Unified School District, failed to meet new federal benchmarks in English and math, according to test results released Friday.

Statewide, 54.9 percent of schools achieved adequate progress toward the federal goal of having every student proficient in English and math by 2014. That compares to 32 percent in 2002, the state Department of Education said.

In the LAUSD, just under half of the 650 schools districtwide met their academic targets, set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act and reported in the Adequate Yearly Progress Report. Seventeen high schools and 297 elementary schools achieved their goals while only one middle school, Arroyo Seco Middle School, did so.

"I feel strongly this is an indication for us how we can strengthen our study skills for youngsters," said Jerry Horowitz, principal of Byrd Middle School, which was deemed educationally inadequate after the campus missed the mark by just a bit. "I can assure you we can do better for next year."

The Adequate Yearly Progress Report was released Friday along with school-by-school results for the California Achievement Tests, a new basic skills exam, and the California Standards Tests in math, English, science and social science.

The federal benchmarks demand that at least 13.6 percent of elementary and middle school students show proficiency in English language arts and 16 percent in math. For high schoolers, the target is 11.2 percent proficiency in English and 9.6 percent in math. Also, 95 percent of all pupils at a campus -- including English language learners and special education students -- must take the test.

While LAUSD exceeded the district targets of 12 percent for English and 12.8 percent for math, the benchmarks were not met by all categories of students, leaving the district deficient. Disabled students scored below the benchmark.

"The students with disabilities we knew would be a challenge," said LAUSD's Esther Wong, assistant superintendent of planning, assessment and research. "We have a ways to go there."

The benchmarks will be adjusted gradually to require higher percentages of students to achieve proficiency, with the goal of having all students mastering their grade level content standards by 2014.

High-poverty schools that fail to meet the federal academic goals two years in a row would be required to allow their students to transfer to high-performing campuses or provide them with tutoring services.

If the schools continue to underperform year after year, the federal government can impose a range of sanctions from restructuring the campus and replacing administrators to contracting with an outside agency to manage the school.

Of the state's high-poverty schools, 49 percent hit the target, compared to 22 percent the previous year. In the LAUSD, 99 schools face the prospect of transferring their students to better schools or providing them with tutoring services.

Of those district schools, 16 are in the San Fernando Valley. Three -- Byrd Middle School in Sun Valley, Kennedy High in Granada Hills and San Fernando Elementary -- joined the ranks of failing schools Friday based on their inability to meet benchmarks in English and math.

While some principals greeted their ranking as a challenge, others cried foul over the list that slaps a label on a campus whose gains can be overshadowed if just one category of students misses the benchmark.

"I don't think anyone likes a label put on them, especially when they don't deserve it," said Monroe High School Principal Gregory Vallone, who said his campus has made great strides in recent years with higher test scores.

"When we've got kids that are doing everything they can do to achieve, it's like, 'I don't want to go up to the plate anymore when I hit a home run and nobody cheers,"' Vallone said. "It's a disservice. It really is. I'm here because I got a job to do, and I think most of our teachers feel the same way, yet when we're looked at the way we are ..."

Sun Valley Middle School Principal Jeff Davis, whose struggling campus with 1,400 English-language learners similarly posted great gains, nevertheless remains a deficient school.

"The AYP is bizarre because it compares you against everybody," he said. "How is it fair to judge a school where 1,400 kids are English-language learners with the same?"

— Lisa Miscaro
Nearly Half of Schools in State are Out
Los Angeles Daily News
August 16, 2003


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