Wednesday, August 30, 2006

State says Blaine schools need improvement

Students score high ISAT marks, but subgroups fall short


By MEGAN THOMAS
Express Staff Writer

The Idaho Department of Education reports that Blaine County students show higher academic proficiency when compared to the overall scores of Idaho students.

Despite the high performance, the department identified the Blaine County School District as a district in need of improvement, as the district failed to meet state and federal No Child Left Behind academic goals in four subgroup testing categories. The results were drawn from the spring 2006 Idaho Standards Achievement Tests (ISAT), released by the board earlier this month.

"It means we will be writing a school improvement plan in terms of how we are focusing on improving the performance," said Jerry Hutchins, Blaine County School District's director of testing.

All Idaho students in grades three through eight and grade 10 take the ISAT twice a year, in the fall and spring, in the subject areas of reading, math, and language. Spring results determine adequate yearly progress data to meet federal No Child Left Behind Act requirements.

Across the district, a higher percentage of Blaine County students met proficiency standards in reading and math when compared with the overall scores of Idaho students.

Blaine County met all math testing goals, but failed to meet reading proficiency goals for subgroup categories including Hispanic students, limited English proficient students and students with disabilities.

Schools and districts must meet 41 categories to make adequate yearly progress. If a district or school misses one category, the entity is identified for improvement. The Blaine County School District was placed in "Improvement Year 1" status, for failing to meet goals for the second year.

"To meet adequate yearly progress is a difficult goal for (school districts) to achieve because there are 41 goals the district has to meet. It's not unusual to see a high performing district not make AYP," said Jennifer Oxley, state department of education public information officer.

The district and schools, which did not meet standards, will be required to submit improvement plans. The sanctions also require schools to notify parents and offer students a choice to transfer to a different school within the district.

"We encourage the public to review the reports of schools and districts before becoming critical of them. Sometimes a school or district misses AYP because just one or two of the 41 areas were not met," said Jana Jones, Idaho's chief deputy superintendent.

In Blaine County, the subgroups that did not meet proficiency goals did show increased proficiency, when compared with the previous year. Hispanic students increased reading proficiency 9.82 percent from 2005 to 2006.

"We think that is a very positive improvement and shows a lot of growth," Hutchins said.

The district was also marked for a decrease in the graduation rate. The 2005 graduation rate was 83.41 percent, compared to 84.81 the previous year.

"It doesn't mean a school or district is performing poorly. Generally, in one or two categories they struggled. People should not take a critical look at their district without having all of the information," Oxley said.

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ISAT scores

The Idaho State Department of Education recently released the spring 2006 Idaho Standards Achievement Test results. The department identified the Blaine County School District in need of improvement because the district failed to meet academic adequate yearly progress goals. Below are quick facts detailing the district's performance compared to schools across the state:

· In Idaho, 48 percent of Idaho school districts did not make adequate yearly progress.

· Of Idaho schools, 211 did not make adequate yearly progress.

· Wood River High School, Bellevue Elementary and Hailey Elementary schools did not make adequate yearly progress.

· In Blaine County, 87.31 percent of students were proficient readers, compared to 84.19 percent in Idaho.

· In Blaine County, 85.37 percent of students were proficient math students, compared to 82.82 percent in Idaho.




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