Thursday, August 16, 2007

More schools fail federal standards

More schools fail federal standards

Web Posted: 08/16/2007 12:08 AM CDT

Jenny LaCoste-Caputo
Thirty-three San Antonio schools failed to meet the federal government's standards for the 2006-07 school year, up from 26 last year.
The schools failed to make adequate yearly progress — the key measure of overall academic performance under President Bush's sweeping public school overhaul, No Child Left Behind.

Several schools missed the mark for multiple years in a row, triggering sanctions ranging from allowing students to transfer to higher-performing schools to replacing school staff or extending the school year.

Twelve schools in the San Antonio Independent School District failed to make adequate yearly progress, the most of any of the city's school districts. The SAISD schools failed for a variety of reasons, including reading and math performance, percentage of students tested and graduation rates.

Sam Houston High School missed the mark for a fifth year in a row, so officials must now come up with a plan to restructure the school, as the federal law requires.

Options include reopening Sam Houston as a charter school, replacing staff or turning the school over to the state. If the school fails again for the same reason next year, the district would have to put the plan into effect.

A district spokeswoman said SAISD plans to appeal the federal rating for five of the schools, which were dinged because of their graduation rates. Superintendent Robert Durón did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The federal results come just two weeks after the state released school ratings under its accountability plan. The vast majority of the San Antonio schools that failed the federal standard were ranked academically acceptable under Texas' system. At least one was ranked "recognized," the state's second-highest rating.

Richard Middleton, superintendent of North East ISD where two schools — MacArthur High and Nimitz Middle — did not make adequate yearly progress, said the incongruence between the state and federal systems is confusing and misleading.

Nimitz, for example, is a recognized campus under the state's system for a second year in a row and won a grant from the state last year to create a new science, math and engineering magnet program.

"No wonder there's such confusion and disillusion among the public and educators," Middleton said. "The state of Texas and the federal government really need to come up with a common system that gives us one message."

Ten other local schools face federal sanctions because they have failed to make adequate yearly progress for a second, third or fourth time: Memorial High in Edgewood ISD; Tejeda Academy in Harlandale ISD; Fox Tech High, Navarro Academy and Wheatley Middle in San Antonio ISD; Somerset High in Somerset ISD; South San Antonio High West Campus and Dwight Middle in South San Antonio ISD; Southside High in Southside ISD; and McAuliffe Junior High in Southwest ISD.

The schools will be required to allow students to transfer to another school in the district and also may have to provide tutoring for low-income students. Depending on how many years the schools have missed the mark, they may be subject to additional sanctions.

Harlandale High School, which failed the federal standard last year, made drastic improvement this year and moved off the so-called "needs improvement list" — the U.S. Department of Education's term for the list of schools operating under sanctions.

Kathy Bruck, Harlandale's executive director of curriculum and instruction, said a new administrative team focused on struggling students, holding tutoring sessions on weekends and during school breaks and meeting with faculty twice a week.

Bruck said Harlandale High's principal, Rey Madrigal visited classrooms 1,300 times last school year and gave teachers feedback within 24 hours. Teachers came in during Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks and over Spring Break to tutor students.

"They were incredible," Bruck said. "They did whatever it took to get these kids where they needed to be."

Both the state and the federal rankings are based on scores from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, the state's mandatory standardized test. But the two accountability systems measure success differently.

The federal law requires that schools make yearly progress, not just in their overall populations, but also in subgroups based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, learning disabilities and English-language ability.

Schools also can fail the federal standard if their graduation or attendance rate is too low or if less than 95 percent of students — in the overall population or in the smaller groups — are tested. The performance of a handful of students can sink an entire school.

The percentage of students that must pass math and reading tests for a school to meet the federal standard goes up each year. By 2014, the federal government expects 100 percent of public school students to pass.

Northside Superintendent John Folks said Stevens High School failed the federal standard because paperwork for six special education students' tests wasn't turned in properly. He plans to appeal.

Folks said the federal goal of getting 100 percent of children to the proficient level is setting schools up for failure.

"It's going to get harder and harder (to meet the federal standard)," he said. "We're going to do what's right for the individual child."

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