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Clark earns "Reward" status under new federal achievement goals

Waiver moves "Adequate Yearly Progress" to "Annual Measurable Objectives"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Washington state has named Clark Elementary a “Reward School” for top performance under its new system to measure student progress for the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

“We are so proud of the Clark community and the high-quality teaching and learning happening there,” said Issaquah Superintendent Steve Rasmussen. “At Clark and throughout the district, the baseline for every student is meeting standard, and the ultimate accountability measure of our entire system is graduation rate—by that measure, almost 100 percent of our students ultimately master the core subjects.”

Clark earned the high-progress Reward designation because it scored in the top 10 percent of Washington Title 1 schools (which receive federal money to support lower-income students) in reading/math combined for three years; and Clark also has no significant gaps among subgroups of students.

Over the past three years, fourth-grade scores at Clark have jumped nearly 30 percentage points in reading and 25 percentage points in math.

NCLB—the more common name for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act— requires schools that receive Title 1 money to have 100 percent of students meet standard on reading and math state assessments by 2014. Each year leading up to then, schools must have incrementally more students—as a whole and in subgroups—meet standard or they fail to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP). The resulting sanctions escalate to include replacing staff, providing school choice, and reallocating federal funding.

The U.S. Department of Education, however, is now granting state waivers from AYP sanctions, acknowledging that until the law is reauthorized with needed amendments, every school in the nation will ultimately be categorized as failing by 2014.

Washington state received a waiver this July. It replaced AYP with Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO), which carry no sanctions. AMO requires that every school and district reduce by half the number of students—as a whole and in subgroups—who are not proficient in reading and math by 2017. That means every district and school has unique annual targets; the calculation for each is the percent of students not meeting standard in 2011 cut in half (the 2017 goal) and divided by six (the improvement needed each year to reach the 2017 goal).

Districts and schools need to halve the gap for all students and in each of these subgroups: American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic, White, Two or More Races, Limited English, Special Education, and Low Income.

For instance, a school with 80 percent of all students meeting standard in math in 2011 would need to increase that to 90 percent by 2017, with 1.7 percentage increases per year. If 70 percent of Whites at that school met standard in math in 2011, that would need to increase to 85 percent by 2017, with 2.5 percentage increases per year.

“While we welcome Washington’s waiver and the reprieve from AYP sanctions that were counterintuitive to student learning, we are more committed than ever to the spirit of No Child Left Behind,” Rasmussen said. “We are accountable for the success of every child.”

Washington state released initial AMO results for all districts and schools on September 14. They will be available soon available at www.k12.wa.us under “Research and Reports” and “School Report Card.” Select the Issaquah School District from the top scroll menu and individual schools will appear.

“Ironically, schools that are doing very well are at a disadvantage under the new AMO system because when you reach percentages in the mid- to high-90s, you hit a plateau where it’s hardest to make growth,” said Debra Hawkins, Issaquah’s Director of Assessment and Research. “You reach the point where educators are targeting individual students—with their own unique learning needs and personal challenges—to get them to standard. And that’s exactly what’s happening at our schools.”

Because NCLB is a federal law, the corresponding accountability sanctions apply only to schools that receive Title 1 funding. With AMO, the consequence of not meeting goals is being named a “Priority” or “Focus” school in need of improvement; conversely, high-achieving schools are “Reward” schools.

In the Issaquah School District, Apollo, Briarwood, Clark, Issaquah Valley, and Maple Hills Elementary are Title 1 schools. None are Priority or Focus schools.

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