Federal education standards continue to dog the Forest Park Middle School, which again failed to make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
According to Beth Kovacic, assistant principal at the middle school and the district’s testing coordinator, special education students did not measure up in both reading and math. Also disappointing, she said, was Grant-White’s failure to make AYP. According to the results, Kovacic said, reading scores among black students at the elementary school lagged.
This is the first time Grant-White Elementary has failed to make AYP and the fourth consecutive year the middle school has failed to measure up though this year’s lapse occurred in a different student subgroup than in previous years.
Betsy Ross, Field Stevenson and Garfield schools all made AYP under the federal education act.
Test results for the middle school aren’t all negative, however. A push to bolster math scores among black eighth-graders seems to be working, and for the first time in at least three years, students in this sub-group met AYP standards.
In 2006, more than 50 percent of African-American eighth-graders met or exceeded proficiency levels in mathematics. In the two previous years, fewer than 25 percent hit those marks.
“We’ve tried to teach across the curriculum and make those lessons more relevant,” Kovacic said.
To make AYP, at least 47.5 percent of students in any subgroup must perform at or above proficiency standards. At the middle school, only 28 percent of special education students met this mark in math. Thirty percent hit the mark in reading. These scores among special education students were responsible for the middle school failing to make AYP in 2006.
Additional details regarding the district’s AYP test results have not yet been made available to the public by the state Board of Education.
“I think it would be very difficult to get those scores to AYP,” Principal Karen Bukowski said.
Nonetheless, a school improvement plan, which is mandated for schools that do not make AYP, was presented and approved by the board. In that plan, Bukowski proposed a more flexible approach to special education instruction that would deliver curriculum at the grade level those students are capable of. She also called for greater study of the curriculum as it relates to each student’s independent learning plan, or IEP.
According to Bukowski’s report, there are 51 special education students at the middle school.
In acknowledging the difficulty of getting special education students to perform at grade level, Kovacic said that in no way is the district giving up on improving those students’ test scores. Rather, the demands of the federal policy aren’t always reasonable, Kovacic said, and are only getting tougher.
“It doesn’t say we’re giving up on those students at all,” Kovacic said. “What we’re trying to get across is that the policy is unfair.”
During a board discussion of the test results, District 91 Superintendent Randolph Tinder noted that students must demonstrate a below-grade-level understanding of the material to qualify for special education. Then, he said, policymakers require that those same students be tested at grade level.
The district will avoid curriculum adjustments made for the sole purpose of boosting test scores, Kovacic said, but changes will be made to keep classroom instruction in line with test material.
“That’s why we’re doing so much curriculum work,” Kovacic said. “It’s not teaching to the test. You just want to make sure that relationship is there.”