The state Education Department on Thursday released its 2007 preliminary list of schools that need improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act.
This year's list is 15 names longer than 2006's — it grew from 47 schools to 62. That's largely because students had to meet higher math and reading benchmarks.
The benchmarks are designed to put the schools on track to have all their students proficient in reading and math by the year 2014. That is a nationwide requirement set by the No Child Left Behind law.
Schools that fail to meet "adequate yearly progress” benchmarks for two or more years in the same area are classified as needing improvement. The schools face consequences ranging from allowing students to transfer to state takeovers.
Fifty-five schools on the list are designated as Title I schools, meaning a school receives additional funding based on need.
Because the list is preliminary, schools may appeal their placement on it. A final list will be released after that process.
Sixteen schools in the Oklahoma City School District are included — 15 are Title I — and one school came off the list.
Parker Elementary in Spencer, part of the Oklahoma City Public Schools district, was one of only two schools statewide to come off the list. The other was Western Heights High School.
"It was not easy,” said Margaret Carter, principal of Parker. "You just have to hang in there. We've made gains in the past, but small ones.”
Carter attributed the school's improvement to a variety of factors, including more frequent testing. Students take practice tests every week, and teachers then break down exact areas students need help in to develop individualized curriculums for them.
Students graph their progress and set their own weekly improvement goals.
Other efforts that have made a significant impact are student uniforms, teacher training through the help of a federal program, and mentors from Stonegate-Hogan, a commercial real estate firm in Oklahoma City, Carter said.
Possibly the most important factor, though, was raising the expectations for low-performing students, she said.
"You have to punch it up and let them reach, and inspire them to do great things,” Carter said.
To come off the list, a school must meet or exceed "average yearly progress” benchmarks for two years in the same subject or criterion that got it put on the list in the first place.
Of the 62 schools on this year's needs-improvement list, 23 met the benchmarks this year.
Oklahoma School Testing Program, Grades 3-8
NCLB's Performance Benchmarks for Oklahoma
2007 Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests
Improvement Schools 2007