California officials are even more critical of the federal No Child Left Behind law after the state Department of Education on Wednesday released its report on how schools did during the 2010-11 year.
According to the NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress formula, 913 schools would be considered “failing” despite the California Department of Education showing 49 percent of students meeting or exceeding the state’s Academic Performance Index target requirements, which ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000.
“At school, after school and among every significant ethnic group, California’s students are performing better than ever,” Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a news release. “The failure here is in our politics, not our public schools.”
NCLB requires test scores to increase every year, with 100 percent of students being proficient in math and English-language arts by 2014. Each state determines what it considers to be a proficient level of performance for students in those subject areas. If a district or its schools do not meet those targets – even if they make tremendous gains – they are considered to be “failing” and the state could take them over for not meeting the national requirements.
“There are understandably mixed messages with [Wednesday’s] results, yet it is impressive to me that our county schools continue to make strong progress under the state’s accountability system,” Gary Thomas, San Bernardino County superintendent of schools, said in a news release. “Four years of double-digit growth shows the resolve of our schools and teachers to make academic achievement the top focus in our classrooms.”
San Bernardino County had an 11-point gain in its API countywide score to 757. The number of county schools reaching the state’s standard of 800 increased to 171 – the county has 366 schools. Despite that, 52 San Bernardino County schools are in Program Improvement for the first year, bringing the county total to 244 – schools or districts that fail to meet AYP requirements for two years in a row are labeled as Program Improvement and must meet their AYP target for two years in a row in order to leave that status.
“That being said, it’s disheartening to note that the majority of our Title I schools, those that receive federal funding, are being labeled as ‘failing’ under Adequate Yearly Progress,” Thomas said. “Seeing the majority of these schools’ growth scores, that label just doesn’t stick. … It’s getting more difficult to give any credence to the federal accountability model. It doesn’t make any sense that high-achieving schools under one model could be deemed a failure under the federal standard.”
The report the California Department of Education released came one week after Torlakson wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking for a waiver from the NCLB requirements – something Duncan said the Obama administration would begin granting to any state that could show they could meet certain other requirements.
“I think if schools are moving in the right direction I think it’s just plain wrong for the federal government to label them as failing,” Torlakson said.
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