More than 60 district schools in the East Valley failed to make sufficient progress in the last year under the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to results released today (Oct. 1).
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They join the 30 percent of schools statewide that saw at least one group of their students miss educational, attendance or other benchmarks that must be evaluated.
And every East Valley school district failed, as well.
But really, it doesn't mean that much, school and state officials said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said the entire federal benchmark program is "irrational."
"If (parents) want to know how a school is doing, look at the state's performance profiles," he said. "I've worked very hard to be sure our state system is fair and accurate where the federal system is not."
The fact that no East Valley district met the federal requirements was not a surprise, Horne said, adding that it's very difficult for school districts to meet that measure.
There are no serious ramifications for the districts. But the results could have implications for some schools that receive funding because of a high number of low-income students.
Those schools, known as Title I schools, can be placed under school improvement plans and face staff changes and takeover if they fail to make sufficient progress several years in a row.
No East Valley district school, however, faces a takeover at this time.
"There are 145 ways that elementary schools are judged," said Chandler Unified School District spokesman Terry Locke. "If you make (adequate progress) in 144 categories, you fail. ... All it takes is any one subgroup and you fail."
Not only are schools and individual grades required to make sufficient progress, but also each subcategory of students: special-education, Hispanics, whites, English learners.
The schools also must meet attendance and graduation-rate goals.
"If there are 41 students (in a subgroup) and two are absent because of illness and one because of test anxiety, they won't make (adequate progress)," in that category, Locke said. No more than three students in any category over 40 students can fail to meet standards.
In fact, some schools that are deemed by the state to be "excelling" may not meet federal progress benchmarks.
McClintock and Mountain Pointe high schools in the Tempe Union High School District are examples.
"Both of those schools were excelling schools in the spring," said Cecilia Johnson, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, adding that she expects them to maintain those labels when state results are released next week.
The federal status is based on last spring's scores on Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards. Students must meet standards in reading, writing and math to "pass."
"You have to look at each school individually to see why they didn't make (adequate progress) to determine if it's something that's educationally significant or not," said Joe O'Reilly, executive director of student achievement in the Mesa Unified School District.
Horne said there is one reason to look favorably toward the federal report. Even though this year's guidelines required more students to meet standards in order for schools to make adequate yearly progress, Arizona's success rate remained constant.
"Every three years, the percentage of students who have to become proficient in order for a school to make (sufficient progress) goes up substantially. This was one of those years," Horne said. "We were fearful the percentage of schools (meeting the federal benchmark) would decline. The percentage remained constant at 72 percent."
By 2014, all students - 100 percent - will be required to meet standards in order for a school to make adequate yearly progress.
"The fact that the percentage held steady in such a demanding year is a positive development," Horne said.