News

Schools didn't make grade

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Two Federal Way high schools have moved to the next level of a “school in improvement” list for not meeting state standards for a third year, and a district administrator is objecting to a middle school being on the list.

Thomas Jefferson and Decatur high schools are now Step 2 schools for not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) for 2005. The information was released by the state’s superintendent of public instruction last Friday.

Kilo Middle School was also on the list at the lower Step 1, but Federal Way Public Schools’ chief academic officer isn’t sure the state was correct to put the school in that category.

Sacajawea Middle School did meet AYP for 2005 but remains on the improvement list at Step 1 because it must make AYP in 2006 to get off.

The information was released five days before the state announces the 2005 WASL scores for school districts statewide. That will happen Wednesday at Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way.

AYP is a federal government acronym that refers to schools and districts meeting the state’s academic standards. Washington uses the math and reading scores from fourth, seventh and 10th-grade students taking the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) to determine schools and districts that meet AYP.

Federal Way Public Schools made AYP.

Districts or schools receiving federal Title I federal dollars face consequences for continued failure. If a school isn’t receiving Title I funds, it is immune from the federal government’s required actions. Jefferson, Decatur and Kilo don’t receive Title I money.

Groups within the student population that meet the state standards determine if AYP has been met. These groups have such headings as: low income, white, Hispanic, black, special education and American Indian. There are more than 30 categories, but not all determine if AYP is met by a school or district, since a certain number of students must fall in each group to count.

What all districts and schools have in common is if one group doesn’t meet AYP, that district or school is considered by the federal government to fail.

However, Mark Jewell, the Federal Way district’s chief academic officer, pointed out a nuance between not meeting AYP and being a “school in improvement:” A school can fail to meet AYP one year and meet it the next and not be on the improvement List.

When a school doesn’t make AYP for two consecutive years, it goes to Step 1. If that school is receiving federal dollars, it must inform parents they can transfer their children to another school in the district that is meeting standards. Transportation is covered by the district.

At Kilo, Hispanics were the sole group to not meet the standard for math. According to the state, Kilo is in Step 1 because in 2004, special-education students didn’t pass the reading standard.

Jewell wondered if the state was accurate putting Kilo at Level 1. He didn’t have the 2005 information to back up his concern, but based it on information the provided to The Mirror.

According to that information, a school can be in Step 1 for two years if it misses AYP in a different subject each year.

Part of his job at the district is to double-check results that the state releases, Jewell said. Often there are errors and he must appeal for a correction. Many districts, he said, don’t have someone to focus on the scores which can be detrimental to districts receiving federal funds.

A school reaches Step 2 when it was in Step 1 and missed meeting standard in the same subject for two years, or was already in Step 2 and fell short in a different subject. Regardless of the school’s situation, the district must continue offering the option for students to transfer to other schools in the district. Also, tutoring services must be provided to low-income students.

Jefferson High didn’t make AYP because two groups –– Hispanics and low income –– didn’t meet state standards in math: .

Decatur High failed to make AYP because special education students who took the WASL didn’t meet the math standard.

Jewell said the district is working individually with each school and students who aren’t meeting the state standards. He cited the district’s Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) for eighth-grade students who missed the state standard. The program has been in place since 2003 and most of the students who participated are meeting the state standards in reading and math.

Statewide, more schools are on the schools in improvement list because the state’s reading and math goals rose this year between 12 and 21 percent. Last year, there were 156 schools on the list; this year there are 185.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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