By KATIE PESZNECKER
Anchorage Daily News
August 13, 2005
Preliminary numbers, reported on Friday, aren't much different from last year. But Roger Sampson, state education commissioner, said a closer look shows the academic gulf between minority and white students continues to shrink. And that's the main goal of No Child Left Behind, the federal law that demands states track schools' annual academic progress and make public the results. The law aims to have all students academically on-track by the 2013-14 school year.
This past school year, 292 of Alaska's 495 public schools met that mark and 203 missed. The previous year, 290 schools showed adequate progress. Sampson urged parents and citizens to look deeper into the data before judging a school by its label.
He said he did not want to mask the fact that some Alaska schools need substantial improvement. "But we certainly don't have 203 of them," he said.
This is the third year that the nation's public schools have had to make "adequate yearly progress" under the federal law by meeting criteria in up to 31 categories for test scores, attendance and graduation rates. For schools that mostly serve students from poor families, missing progress means consequences that get worse each year - from giving students choice and transportation to attend other schools, to eventually having the state take over the school.
More than 71 percent of students on both a building-wide level and in nine additional subcategories must pass language arts tests, and nearly 58 percent must pass math.
The subcategories include six ethnic groups: Alaska Native, white, black, American Indian, Asian and Hispanic. Other subgroups are students with disabilities, students from low-income families and students with limited English proficiency.
Attendance requirements demand 95 percent of students at a school and in each subgroup take the tests. If there are fewer than 40 students in the limited English and disabilities subgroups, they don't have to meet this requirement. Other subgroups are excused from this if they have fewer than 20 students, according to state guidelines.
Schools can also meet a category's requirements by getting something called "safe harbor." That means 10 percent of the total number of kids who didn't make academic progress the previous year made it the following year. Forty-five schools were able to satisfy qualifications for progress because they met this provision.
Missing just one of the 31 categories means a school technically didn't make progress. Most schools across that faltered did so in just a few of the 31 categories.
"We see almost 50 percent of the schools that missed (progress) did so in two or fewer categories," Sampson said.
Almost 150 schools missed progress for four or fewer reasons. Only 12 schools statewide missed nine or more of the 31 categories.
For a more information on the state results and specific schools, go to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development Web page at http://www.educ.state.ak.us/.
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