September 10, 2008
12 County Districts Miss Pa. Goals
By Meadows, Robyn
For the second year in a row, 12 of the county's 16 public school districts missed academic targets, according to the state Department of Education report released Thursday. Most of them missed because of reading scores for students in special education.
"We are frustrated; one of the definitions of a special needs child is that they are performing at least two grade levels behind their age group," Superintendent Don Stewart said. "Yet No Child Left Behind tests them on grade level."
Elizabethtown, Lampeter-Strasburg, Manheim Central and Solanco are the only county districts where every school reached all of the benchmarks in 2007-08.
"We are very pleased with Solanco's results," District Spokesman Keith Kaufman said. "We are especially pleased with these results since the AYP requirements were higher this year..."
In all, 27 of 118 public schools in the county missed at least one state target.
That's a 77 percent success rate - down two percentage points from one year ago. In 2006-07, 79 percent met all of the standards, and in 2005-06, 91 percent met all of the standards.
The standards or targets fall under what's known as adequate yearly progress, or AYP. It's part of the accountability system under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The state says a school achieves AYP when it reaches the state targets or shows improvement from the previous year.
It was much harder to make AYP in 2007-08.
In order to reach this year's goal, 63 percent of a school's students had to score "proficient" or "advanced" on the reading portion of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test and 56 percent had to score "proficient" or "advanced" in the math portion.
The AYP targets stay at these levels until 2011, when they climb to 72 percent and 67 percent, respectively.
In 2006-07, the targets were 54 percent in reading and 45 percent in math.
Writing scores and science scores do not factor into AYP.
And, test results are just one factor in calculating AYP.
Districts and each of their schools also must have at least an 80 percent graduation rate, 90 percent school attendance rate and 95 percent test participation rate.
For the 2007-08 school year, reading seemed to be the largest stumbling block for most of the students in subgroups.
Subgroups are 40 or more students who are a minority, speak English as a second language, are in special education or are economically disadvantaged.
At Conestoga Valley High School, special education students labored in reading and math.
The high school's economically disadvantaged students also performed below expectations in reading.
"While we were disappointed that we missed four AYP goals, they are only small parts of our districtwide efforts," Superintendent Gerald Huesken said in a prepared statement. "As I've said all along, the one-size-fits-all mentality of No Child Left Behind simply doesn't work."
In Penn Manor, the high school's special education students missed targets for reading and math. They missed it for reading at Marticville Middle School and in math at Manor Middle School.
If these students were proficient, they could exit special education, Stewart said.
"Our teachers are working hard, and we take a lot of pride in our special education services," he said.
Even though Hempfield's math scores are the second highest in the county, (83 percent proficient or advanced), and reading scores are the third highest, (82 percent), two schools did not make AYP.
Centerville Middle School missed the target because of how special education students performed in math.
East Petersburg Elementary students in the Latino subgroup fell short of standards in reading.
Superintendent Brenda Becker said the district will focus on the success of subgroups and all students.
"We are confident that our school improvement efforts across the district will improve scores in the future," she said.
The School District of Lancaster's scores on the state assessment test and overall performance using AYP measuring sticks was the lowest in the county.
Nine schools missed AYP targets.
But that does not mean they have not made strides.
For example, in 1998, only 26 percent of SDL students were advanced or proficient in reading - compared to 48 percent in 2007- 08.
If a school fails to achieve AYP, it faces escalating consequences such as having to create school-improvement plans, offering school choice and paying for tutoring.
The federal No Child Left Behind legislation requires that by 2014, schools have 100 percent of their students - including those who are poor, a minority, speak English as a second language or are learning disabled - achieving proficiency.
For more details on how your school district performed, go to www.paayp.com.
Also check out each county district's grade-span results on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment on www.lancasteronline.com.
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