The number of Utah schools failing to meet federal testing goals under No Child Left Behind held steady this year, with a little more than one in five missing the mark, according to results released Wednesday.
Only eight more schools failed to pass this year after the U.S. Department of Education gave Utah permission not to raise its testing goals. A total of 209 Utah schools failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) toward the goals of the federal education law this year.
"It's about the same as last year, which I feel good about," said John Jesse, director of assessment and accountability at the State Office of Education. "The goals did not go up, so you would kind of expect it to stay about the same, and it did."
To see how your school did, go to http://extras.sltrib.com/ayp_2011.
The ultimate goal of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is for 100 percent of students to test proficient in math and language arts by 2014. To reach that goal, increasing percentages of students are expected to test proficient in those subjects over time on state tests given in the spring.
The U.S. Department of Education, however, recently granted Utah's request not to raise that bar for this year only. Absent action from Congress, the feds have said they will give more states more flexibility in the form of waivers in the coming year when it comes to the law.
Logan Toone, assessment director for Davis School District, said keeping the Utah goals the same this year "absolutely" helped schools to make AYP in his district, although four more than last year 22 failed to do so.
"That made a big difference for pretty much everyone across the board. I think we'll see some different results next year if the bar is allowed to go up to the next level," Toone said. "We hope that with the reauthorization [of NCLB], our federal lawmakers are able to put something together that really makes sense for kids. We want to have high expectations and we want to be held accountable to the public, but we want to be held accountable in a reasonable way."
Most Utah schools that failed to make AYP will not face sanctions. Only schools that receive federal Title I dollars for serving high percentages of children from low-income families face sanctions for failing to meet testing goals. This year, 17 Utah schools fall in that category and typically must offer to bus students to better performing schools. Some also have to offer extra tutoring.
Still, many schools anxiously await their AYP results each year, hoping they'll show success. Schools must meet testing goals in each of 40 categories to pass.
"It's published out there for everybody and you worry about whether your students or school are going to be marked as not a very good school, and we are a very good school," said Annette Huff, principal at Jordan Hills Elementary in West Jordan, which made AYP this year after not making it last year, thanks largely, she said, to an increased focus on helping struggling students in fourth through sixth grades.
"It's kind of a shame that we have to rely on U-PASS and AYP scores in order for the public to know you're a good school. All schools in our district do great things for kids every day," Huff said.
This past spring, 83 percent of students had to test proficient in language arts and 45 percent had to test proficient in math for elementary and middle schools to make AYP. For high schools, 82 percent of 10th-graders had to test proficient in language arts and 40 percent of students had to test proficient on certain math tests.
Dee Elementary in Ogden did not make AYP this year, but Principal Sondra Jolovich-Motes is pleased the school went from not meeting testing goals in all 40 categories last year to making the grade in 38 of them. The two areas where the school still needs to improve are in math and language arts scores of special-education students.
Already, the school has doubled time spent on those two subjects for special-education students, both with their homeroom and resource teachers, Jolovich-Motes said.
"That we made it in all areas except for special ed that's huge for us. The next question teachers ask is: What is our next step? How do we get even better?" she said. "Our goal is to have all of our students at the proficiency level."
McKay Robinson, principal of Lone Peak Elementary in Sandy, said he is "thrilled" and "ecstatic" that his school made AYP this year after failing to do so last year for the first time in teachers' memory.
Last year's low scores sparked a new focus on testing results throughout the 2010-11 school year, he said. Teachers were constantly monitoring students' understanding of concepts and reworking lessons that didn't appear to stick. The school also hired five classroom aides to work with students in small groups.
"When we did not make AYP, it kind of startled a lot of our teachers," Robinson said. "They were committed from that point on to not have that happen again."
Results under the state's own separate school accountability system, U-PASS, were also released Wednesday, and schools fared better under that system. This year, 53 schools failed under U-PASS compared with 49 last year. To see if your school passed, go to http://1.usa.gov/kzqaDB.
To meet U-PASS goals, certain percentages of students must test proficient in language arts, math and science. Or, schools can show they are making a certain amount of progress to meet state standards. Schools don't face specific sanctions for failing.
This year likely will be the last for U-PASS, however. Schools will instead receive grades based on their performance starting next year under a new state law. Jesse said he hopes the grades will also replace AYP, so schools are measured by just one system instead of two.
"The whole point of accountability is transparency for the public and policymakers, and you don't have transparency when you have two different assessment systems trying to figure it out," Jesse said.
How did your school do?
To see whether your school met testing goals under No Child Left Behind this year go to http://extras.sltrib.com/ayp_2011.