Wednesday, September 15, 2004

District sets school scores straight

Guest opinion by KATHERINE SCHOENE

Katherine Schoene is the Community and School Relations coordinator for Blaine County School District.

A new era of school testing has arrived in the state of Idaho and the Blaine County schools are working hard putting the changes in place. Blaine County schools are among the best in the state with 86 percent of students proficient in reading, 82 percent of students proficient in math, and 86 percent of students proficient in language arts. As are many school districts, we are working hard to improve the test scores of children who need support services in school as well as additional support at home. This new era of testing requires additional attention and support in the schools and the community in order to surpass proficiency goals. Blaine County schools are up to the challenge.

Under federal No Child Left Behind legislation, all Idaho schools test school proficiency by using the Idaho Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). In order for a school to be considered proficient for the 2003-2004 school year, 95 percent of students must be tested in three subject areas. Of those tested, 66 percent must be proficient in reading, 51 percent must be proficient in math and 66 percent must be proficient in language. Schools meeting these proficiency levels are considered making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). If a school does not meet every one of these goals, it is placed on ?alert? status or ?needs improvement? status. The first year a school or district misses a goal, it is placed on ?alert? status, if a goal in the same subject is missed two years in a row, the school is placed on ?needs improvement? status.

Blaine County School District staff continues to strive toward excellence in the education we provide all of our students. The state proficiency rates are a moving target. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates that every student (100 percent) across the country be performing at grade level in reading and math by 2014. As a result, for the 2004-2005 school year, and for each subsequent year, our schools will be held to progressively higher proficiency scores.

To determine proficiency for the 2003-04 school year, the state looked at test results for grades three, four, seven, eight and ten. NCLB law requires that test results be reported separately for all groups in the school, including racial and ethnic groups, economically disadvantaged students, students who are just now learning to speak English, and students with disabilities. Each of these subgroups must meet proficiency for a school to make Adequate Yearly Progress. As a district, Blaine County Public Schools made Adequate Yearly Progress. Two schools, Hailey Elementary School and Wood River High School were placed on alert status because small subgroups did not meet the proficiency standards. Higher scores by as few as 13 students would have kept these schools out of alert status.

The Blaine County School District?s Mileposts program is keenly focused on improving student achievement. The program was proposed five years ago as part of the district?s strategic plan. Since that time, substantial committee work fleshed out a detailed program that was adopted by the School Board last year. This is its first year of implementation. Mileposts are measurable academic skills that are aligned with District Critical Concepts and State Standards to be met at the end of grades two, five, eight, ten and twelve. The basic concept is to hold all parties?school, teacher, student and parent responsible for improving the child?s performance and bringing them to the proficiency level of their current grade in school.

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