Tri-City school districts welcome new goals from state

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 28, 2012 

State education officials released details of a new set of reading and math benchmarks Washington students must meet, and Tri-City school officials are welcoming them.

The new Annual Measurable Objectives replace previous measurements of student progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, federal legislation aimed at improving K-12 education across the country. Federal officials granted the state a waiver from that legislation this past summer.

Under the new standards, various groups of students must pass state assessments to meet specific reading and math targets. Those differ based on student poverty, race and learning ability and are applied at the school level. Overall, the state wants to cut performance gaps in all student groups by half by 2017.

Individual goals have been set in every school for every subgroup, not just for the schools that are struggling.

All public school students in grades 3-8 and 10 are included in the state assessment system.

Tri-City school officials said they still will be challenged to improve student performance, specifically in some at-risk student groups. However, the new standards are more realistic and tailored to individual schools and their students.

"The data's more helpful because it isn't one size fits all," said Lorraine Cooper, spokeswoman for the Kennewick School District.

Under No Child Left Behind, all students were required to pass reading and math assessments by 2014, regardless of learning level or disabilities. Many schools in Washington and around the country were at risk of failing to meet that standard, as a single student failing to pass an assessment put a school out of compliance.

"The writers of the (legislation) had the right goals in mind, but the methodology for determining whether schools were meeting students' needs was too simplistic," said state Superintendent Randy Dorn.

Under the new standards, there will be more monitoring of various student groups than under the federal guidelines and more of that information will be available to the public. More money also will be directed to help students struggling the most.

Leslee Caul, spokeswoman for the Pasco School District, said the new tests will be important in assessing student performance. However, the district uses many assessments and related tools to measure achievement, partially because of regular shifts in educational standards.

"The goals and standards are always changing," she said.

Cooper said it will still be hard work to close achievement gaps for some student groups, such as students living in poverty and or with special needs. But having more resources to target those groups, and having achievement levels tailored to individual school populations also will help

"I think everyone feels better when we have obtainable and realistic goals," she said.

w More information about Annual Measurable Objectives: www.k12.wa.us/ESEA/PublicNotice.aspx

w The Associated Press contributed to this article.

RULES FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS

School districts are required to send parents a letter if their schools are on one of two statewide lists:

w Focus schools are 92 schools that make up the lowest 10 percent of Washington's Title 1 schools, which are low-income schools getting extra financial help from the federal government. Focus schools have the consistently lowest performing subgroups on statewide assessments in reading and math over three years.

Schools on the list include: Kennewick's Park Middle School; Pasco's McLoughlin, Stevens and Ellen Ochoa middle schools, Pasco High; Prosser's Housel Middle School; and Othello's Hiawatha Elementary, McFarland Middle.

Focus schools list: http://bit.ly/FocusSchools

w Priority schools are the 46 schools that make up the lowest 5 percent of Title 1 schools in the state, based on statewide test results. They have shown a lack of progress on these tests over three years.

Schools on the list include: Pasco's Emerson, Longfellow, Rowena Chess and Virgie Robinson elementary schools.

Priority schools list: http://bit.ly/PrioritySchoolsList

Schools showing progress

Reward schools are the 58 Title 1 schools that have either show the most progress or have top student achievement on statewide tests.

Schools on the list include: Richland's Lewis & Clark and Sacajawea elementary schools, Pasco's Ruth Livingston Elementary.

Reward schools list: http://bit.ly/RewardSchools.

-- The Associated Press and Herald staff

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