With three years of data, schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District have made progress in meeting requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to information released Friday by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.
"In general, we're doing well as a school district," said Shawn Dusek, director of secondary education curriculum-assessment for the district, said of those schools meeting NCLB's adequate yearly progress, or AYP, targets.
"We've moved some schools over into meeting AYP that didn't last year, for example, Kachemak Selo and Soldotna Middle School. There was a big focus on those two schools last year and they did it. We still have some work to do, but overall, I'm pleased with the results."
Homer Flex was a third school in the district to move onto the does-meet-AYP list.
On the negative side, however, annual measurable objectives of NCLB are increasing in order for schools to reach 100 percent proficiency by the 2013-2014 academic year.
"That's a concern that everybody needs to be aware of," Dusek said.
Thirty-two of the district's 44 schools 73 percent met AYP. While this is less than in 2003-04, with 36 schools, or 82 percent, meeting the targets, it is a significant jump from 2002-03. In that school year, only 23 schools, or 52 percent, met AYP. Across the state, 292 59 percent of 495 schools made the AYP targets, a 1 percent increase from 2004-05 and a 17 percent increase from 2002-03, the first year the results were released.
Passed by Congress in 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools meet AYP targets with particular groups, including students with limited English proficiency, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, Caucasians, Alaska Natives, American Indians, African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics. Specific percentages are set for proficiency in the areas of language arts and math. Participation in federally mandated tests, attendance and graduation rates play key roles. In all, there are 32 targets a school must reach in order to make AYP.
Dusek praised the community of Kachemak Selo, a small Russian Old Believer village at the head of Kachemak Bay, the school's teachers, staff and principal for their hard work to meet AYP targets.
"They have a lot of (limited English proficiency) students and they made it in that category," he said. "That school did an outstanding job. They just flat out got after it. Those kids show significant improvement."
Graduation rates, based on the number of students who enter in the ninth grade, were a stumbling block for Kenai Alternative High School, Razdolna, Susan B. English and Tebughna schools, which did not meet the targets.
"That's difficult for such small schools," Dusek said. "You track them for four years and that's how the drop-out rate is calculated. Some of those schools went from 100 percent graduation and dropped and it might only be one kid out of five or six. I know those principals are really bound and
determined to keep the kids in school. ... That's the hard part about AYP. There are 30-some categories you have to meet and it's unfortunate that one area can set you back, but that's the rules we play by."
One area hurting several schools, including the Connections program and Kenai Central High School, is the participation rate in the required assessments.
"Sometimes people are traveling all over the world and it's difficult," Dusek said. "And with Kenai Central High School, it just boiled down to one or two students that didn't participate. It was some of the best scores Kenai ever had, but it's the old adage you've got to have participation."
Not one of the 32 cells that determine AYP but a part of NCLB is a requirement that teachers be "highly qualified" or certified in the subject areas they teach. Roger Sampson, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, said this is an area of concern particularly for small schools in Alaska, and the state is requesting flexibility from the U.S. Department of Education.
"That's unrealistic for small schools where teachers teach three, four, five content areas," Sampson said. "We still believe there's some wonderful instruction happening when you do cross-curriculum instruction. The federal definition almost detracts and says no, math experts do math and don't cross over. We can show evidence that we have some highest-performance schools where teachers are doing multiple content areas."
All in all, Dusek had a positive outlook for the district's future.
"Most of our schools that didn't make AYP are on Level 1, but I expect by next year they'll meet AYP," he said.
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