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.
Achieving progressParker 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. They will need to do so again next year to come off next year's list.
About the benchmarksHow they're set Adequate Yearly Progress is a measure determined by student test scores in math and reading, the percent of students tested, and graduation and attendance rates. The bar was raised from an Academic Performance Index of 790 to 932 in math, and from 768 to 914 in reading. The goal is to reach a score of 1500 API by the year 2014. "We thought we'd have more than that, because that was a pretty steep climb,” state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett said of the 62 schools. Under No Child Left Behind, only 2 percent of a school's population may take a modified test for students with cognitive disabilities. That exam still must test grade-level content. Another 1 percent of students, those with the most significant disabilities, may take a portfolio test. Test scores: A ‘special' problem Also at the state Board of Education meeting, 2007 state test results were released for algebra I, English II, biology I and U.S. history exams; those same exams in their modified version for students with cognitive disabilities. In most subjects, the percentage of proficient students increased from 2006 scores, though Algebra I scores could not be compared because the test was retooled. However, noticeably fewer eighth-grade students who took the modified tests achieved "advanced” scores than third graders who took modified tests.
Consequences•The first year a school lands on the list, it must provide a plan for improvement and offer students the choice to attend another public school. •In the second year, schools must provide supplemental educational services to low-income students, in addition to the consequences for first-year schools. •In the third year, schools must take at least one of a variety of actions, such as replacing school staff or extending the school day. •In the fourth year, in addition to continuing all the remedies already outlined, schools must come up with a plan to restructure, which can include reopening as a charter school. •If a school is on the list for five straight years, the plan created in the fourth year must be implemented. The state also can take over at this point.
School accreditationThe state board also approved accreditation recommendations for the 2007-2008 school year. Statewide, 528 public, nonpublic and CareerTech schools were accredited with no deficiencies; 53 were accredited with one deficiency; and 19 were accredited with deficiencies. However, none of the deficiencies are considered serious enough to detract from the schools' educational programs, and no schools lost their accreditation. In the Oklahoma City School District, 91 sites were accredited without any problems; four had one deficiency and one had multiple deficiencies. Those schools are: •F.D. Moon Academy for a 4-year-old class size that does not meet regulations. •Capitol Hill High School for fire drills that are not in compliance. •Classen High School of Advanced Studies for a science teacher teaching without the proper credentials or endorsement. •U.S. Grant High School for a science teacher teaching without the proper credentials or endorsement. •Oklahoma Centennial High School for English I and geography teachers teaching without the proper credentials or endorsement.
By the numbers•62: Number of schools statewide listed as needing improvement. •23: Number of those schools that met "adequate yearly progress” goals last year. •55: Number of schools on the list designated as Title I schools. •47: Number of schools on last year's list of schools needing improvement.