June 20, 2008

Board Lauds Junior High’s Progress on Learning Goals

By Tony Sapochetti, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

Jun. 20--PONTIAC -- The Pontiac Elementary School District 429 board members applauded Thursday evening when they heard the junior high school made adequate yearly progress for 2008, satisfying federal education standards.

"We are very excited to announce this and we are ready for all of the hard work," Pontiac Junior High School Principal Judy Donze said.

AYP is determined by the results of each spring's Illinois Standards Achievement Test scores, including performance by various subgroups of students.

About 76.5 percent of students met or exceeded reading standards, a 7.3 percent increase from last year, and 89 percent met or exceeded math standards, a 9.6 percent increase.

The state requirement for AYP is 62.5 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in reading and math, Donze said.

The school did not make AYP in the past five years primarily because of the scores of special education students. That caused the school to be placed on the state's academic watch status.

Donze said the state expects 55 percent of students with disabilities to meet or exceed the test standards. For students in that category this year, 55.2 percent met or exceeded standards for reading (a 40 percent increase since 2007) and 61.2 percent met or exceeded math standards (a 33 percent increase since 2007).

The majority of the PJHS student body as a whole met or exceeded standards for these tests.

Scores for a subgroup are singled out for analysis when 45 or more students fall into it. Subgroups can include special education students, low-income students and other categories.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, an entire school fails to meet AYP even if only one subgroup fails to meet AYP. This requirement has come under criticism from school districts because special education students are required to take the same test as their mainstream classmates.

In another matter, the school board approved allowing the district to transfer money from the working cash fund, which has about $1 million in it, to other funds to cover operating deficits. The deficits are $145,000 in the education fund, $50,000 deficit in the operation and maintenance fund and $3,000 in the transportation fund.

Ongoing delays in state aid payments were blamed.

"Currently the state owes us over $650,000, which will take care of all of those deficits," he said, adding that he is concerned if the situation continues.

"If the state funds dry up, we are going to be in a world of hurt because we don't have enough reserve to carry us over," he said.


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