2 Cape schools miss MAP goal

Friday, September 1, 2006

Some students who scored low on the Missouri Assessment Program tests at Jefferson and Blanchard elementary schools will have an opportunity to transfer to other elementary schools in the Cape Girardeau School District.

That's because for the second consecutive year, the schools they attend didn't make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Jefferson School failed to meet this year's goals in both communication arts and math. Blanchard's black students failed to meet the goal in communication arts.

As a result, the law's "school choice" provision will be implemented, said Pat Fanger, assistant superintendent of Cape Girardeau public schools.

School officials plan to send letters to parents explaining the process. Lowest-achieving students will get first priority, Fanger said.

But the district could only handle a limited number of transfers into Clippard, Franklin and Alma Schrader elementary schools, which all scored high enough on the 2006 assessments to make AYP, Fanger said. Those buildings can accommodate only so many students.

Fanger said those numbers haven't been calculated.

The experience of other schools in Missouri has shown that few parents choose to transfer their children to a different school due to a failure to make AYP.

"Most people don't want to leave their schools," she said.

Failure to make AYP in a subject for a third consecutive year would require the school district to provide tutoring to the lowest-scoring students.

Fanger said school officials must work to improve scores among black and low-income students in the district.

Jefferson Elementary has the largest percentage of low-income and minority students of any school in the district. Nearly 87 percent of Jefferson's students come from low-income families. Fifty-four percent of the students are black, school officials said.

As a whole, students in every school in the district except Jefferson made the target goals set by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education each year. "As a whole, we are providing a very solid education," said Fanger.

Under the federal law, however, schools must meet target goals not only for their student body as a whole but also for all subgroups categorized by race and ethnicity, low income and special needs.

The law primarily affects schools that receive federal Title I money earmarked to help low-income students.

Besides Jefferson and Blanchard schools, Central Middle School also failed to meet the target goals in some student categories.

But because fifth- and sixth-grade students were tested for the first time this year, the school won't have to show adequate yearly progress for another year, Fanger said.

The middle school failed to meet the target goals among black, special-needs and low-income students. "It didn't really surprise us being that it was the first year that they took the test," Fanger said.

But the student body at the middle school overall exceeded the proficiency targets, she said.

The results of the testing don't affect Central Junior High School because it doesn't receive Title I funding, but the school has room to improve as well. The school's black students scored lower in math than its special-needs students.

Scott City and Jackson school districts made adequate yearly progress in almost all areas.

Scott City elementary, middle and high school students made adequate yearly progress. Low-income students initially came in just under the state target goal, but a statistical formula used by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education allowed the district to meet the goal.

With the exception of the middle school, Jackson public schools also met proficiency goals. The state said only 22 percent of special-needs students at the school were proficient in communication arts, which falls below the 34.7 percent goal set by the state.

But school officials said some students were being improperly counted and that they expect revised figures to show the middle school made adequate yearly progress.

Overall, more than 55 percent of the middle school's students showed proficiency in communications arts.

Jackson superintendent Dr. Ron Anderson said students in his district are showing improved test scores. "I think the key is continuous improvement," he said.

In Cape Girardeau, the focus was on test scores at Jefferson and Blanchard schools. Even with the aid of a Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education formula to adjust statistics for margin of error, only 30.5 percent of students tested at Jefferson were proficient in communication arts and only 25.9 percent in math.

Excluding the statistical boost, only 21.3 percent of students tested at Jefferson were proficient in communication arts and only 17.4 percent in math, according to DESE. Scores for individual student subgroups -- such as black students and low-income students -- were significantly lower.

The current state goal is 34.7 percent proficient in communication arts and 26.6 percent proficient in math.

The target goals keep increasing. The goal is to have 100 percent of students proficient in communication arts and math by 2014 to meet the requirements of the federal law.

School officials said that will be difficult to achieve.

Despite the overall numbers, Jefferson principal Mark Cook said his school is making progress. Among black students, proficiency in communication arts rose from 13.8 percent in 2005 to 14.8 percent this year. In math, proficiency among black students increased from 5.9 percent to 11.1 percent in the past year. Those figures don't include adjustments under the statistical formula.

"That is progress," Cook said, adding that that's the intent of the federal law.

Jefferson, he said, has an extensive after-school tutoring program. "I feel confident in what we are doing every day," he said.

Blanchard made adequate yearly progress in all student categories except one. Only 30.3 percent of black students showed proficiency in communication arts even with a boost from DESE's statistical formula. Without it, only 16.2 percent of black students were found to be proficient.

"It is disappointing," said principal Dr. Barbara Kohlfeld.

Overall, the school showed improved test scores. "But you have to make it across the board," she said.

"We look at every child and value them," she said. "We don't want anybody to not succeed."

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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