All but 8 borough schools pass adequate yearly progress test

Posted: Thursday, August 05, 2004

"How We Did"

Chart with AYP designations for all 44 Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Schools.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District made significant improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act's accountability standards this year, state officials announced Wednesday.

Officials with the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development released Wednesday adequate yearly progress, or AYP, results for public schools in the state. AYP is a measure of how well schools prepared students for assessment tests.

Last year the first year all public schools in the nation were held accountable to the standards Kenai Peninsula schools split almost evenly between passing and failing AYP requirements. In all, 20 of the KPBSD's 41 counted schools passed, while 21 were listed as "school improvement sites," needing to make additional efforts to bring students up to grade level on the tests.

This year, just eight KPBSD schools missed the mark on AYP: Connections, Homer Flex, Kachemak Selo, Kenai Alternative High, Nanwalek, Seward Middle, Soldotna Middle and Tebughna schools.

The marked improvement 14 schools went from noncompliance in 2002-03 to compliance in 2003-04 can be attributed to several different efforts, from targeted intervention for low-performing students to changes in the state's AYP guidelines, said Assistant Superintendent Sam Stewart.

"There are several factors that go into it," Stewart said.

First, the district has made a concerted effort to improve participation rates a problem that hung up several schools last year.

"We got great cooperation from parents and students," he said.

"Other changes that may have influenced it is some of our intervention efforts to make sure we're meeting the needs of each student. That's a goal we continue to strive to."

Stewart noted that the state has made some changes to requirements, as well, that aided a handful of schools in reaching AYP.

AYP is based on assessment test scores for students in grades three through 10, as well as "other academic indicators," such as attendance and graduation rates. Schools are judged under a complex rubric that includes not only on overall student proficiency rates, but also the percentage of students who participated in testing and the proficiency rates for several subgroups, including ethnic groups and students deemed to have disabilities, low English-speaking abilities and economic disadvantages.

To make AYP, schools must have a targeted percentage of students score "proficient" on tests in all subgroups. Both this year and last, the targeted rates were 64.03 percent passing language arts tests and 54.86 percent passing math.

The targets in Alaska are slated to increase incrementally until they reach 100 percent proficiency in the 2013-14 school year, as required under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Failure to meet AYP can result in several levels of consequences. At Levels I and II the first and second years of missed AYP schools must develop an improvement plan. At Levels II and III the second and third years schools must have improvement plans and offer students supplemental services or transportation to other schools. At Levels III and IV the third and fourth consecutive years of missing AYP some schools can be subject to takeover from the state or be required to replace the instructional staff.

While all schools are subject to AYP under the No Child Left Behind Act, only Title I schools that receive federal funding are held to the more dire consequences.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the eight schools that missed AYP did so for a variety of reasons:

Connections, the district's home-school program, did not make AYP because too few students in the program as a whole and in the Caucasian subgroup participated in assessment testing. In addition, the program's graduation rate did not meet the required 55.58 percent. Connections is at Level II, meaning it has missed AYP two years in a row. In 2002-03, the program had the same shortcoming with participation rates.

Homer Flex School, an alternative high school program in Homer, also is at Level II, having missed AYP two years in a row. While the school met necessary participation and proficiency rates on standardized tests, the school's graduation rate was below the requirement.

Kachemak Selo School, a kindergarten-through-12th-grade school in the Russian Orthodox Old Believer village Kachemak Selo, at the head of Kachemak Bay, missed AYP because of low language arts passing rates among the school as a whole and students in the Caucasian, economically disadvantaged and low-English proficiency subgroups. LEP students also had low passing rates in math, and the school did not make the required graduation rate. Almost all Kachemak Selo students speak English as a second language. Kachemak Selo is at Level II, having missed AYP two years in a row.

Kenai Alternative High School, which serves ninth- through 12th-graders who struggle in traditional high school environments, missed AYP because of low participation rates in the school as a whole and in the Caucasian subgroup. The school also had a low graduation rate. Kenai Alternative is at Level II.

Nanwalek School, at Level II, missed AYP because of low language arts passing rates in the school as a whole and in the Alaska Native and economically disadvantaged subgroups. Nanwalek School serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade in the Native village across Kachemak Bay from Homer.

Seward Middle School missed AYP for the first time this year due to low math proficiency rates among students in the "economically disadvantaged" subgroup. The same group of students had low math scores last year but the school met AYP due to exceptions allowed by the complex AYP determination rules.

Soldotna Middle School entered Level II noncompliance this year, missing AYP because of low proficiency rates in both math and language arts among students with disabilities. Last year, a vast number of KPBSD schools missed AYP because of low scores among students with disabilities. This year, Soldotna Middle is the only one left with that problem.

Tebughna School, which serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade in Tyonek, on the west side of Cook Inlet, is the only KPBSD school to enter Level III noncompliance this year. Though AYP measurements went into effect two years ago, a handful of schools already were listed as "school improvement sites" under Title I regulations. Tebughna is in that category. The school missed AYP because of low language arts and math proficiency rates among the general student population and because of low graduation rates.

"I'm very pleased with this," Stewart said. "When I look at our schools that didn't make it, three are alternative programs that deal with students who have a history of difficulties, so that's not really a surprise, and I think those schools are doing a great job of educating those students, even if they didn't make AYP.

"We do have some ESL (English-as-a-second-language) issues, but we're aware of that, and we'll continue to work to improve."

In addition, he noted that while Seward and Soldotna middle schools missed AYP this year, both schools generally do well on assessment tests.

"When you look at the overall performance of Seward Middle and Soldotna Middle, you will find that overall scores are very good," he said.

While Kenai Peninsula schools didn't have the highest AYP success rate in the state, the KPBSD did significantly better than the other four large Alaska school districts. Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks North Star Borough and Matanuska-Susitna Borough school districts all had less than 60 percent of their schools make AYP this year, while more than 80 percent of Kenai Peninsula schools passed.

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