Mt. Pleasant is only county school district on the 'list'
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
There was good news for two county school districts and a not-so-good report for one county district in the recently-released Iowa “school report card” for districts and their progress under the Federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
Sufficient progress was made by the New London, WACO and Winfield-Mt. Union School districts as all three districts have been removed from the districts in need of assistance (DINA) list. However, Mt. Pleasant remains on the list for failure to meet math and reading proficiency marks.
This marks the fourth year the district has not reached math proficiency and first year for reading proficiency.
If a school district does not meet the adequate yearly progress (AYP) state participation goals or state annual measurable objectives (AMO) proficiency targets in either of the “all students” group of any of the subgroups within the required grade spans (3-5 elementary, 6-8 middle school and 11 high school) in the same subject area (reading or mathematics) for two consecutive years, it is identified as a district in need of assistance.
A school district can also be identified as a DINA if it misses both average daily attendance rates and graduation rate for two consecutive years.
Under the NCLB Act of 2001, public school districts and public schools must report the academic progress of all students in grades three through eight and grade 11. In Iowa the reporting is done from test scores on the Iowa Assessment Test, which formerly was the Iowa Test of Basic Skill in the elementary grades and Iowa Test of Educational Development in high schools.
Student academic progress is reported in subgroups, which number about 12 and include low social and economic status, various races, special education, etc. and their test participation rates in the subject areas of reading and mathematics. For a subgroup, a school must have at least 10 members of that group in a grade and at least 30 students in that particular attendance center, noted Paul Beatty, Mt. Pleasant Community School District director of instruction.
Public elementary and middle school average daily attendance rates and public high school graduation rates are the other academic indicators for public districts and schools.
Despite his district being on the “list,” Mt. Pleasant Superintendent of Schools Mike Wells said NCLB has been good for the nation’s schools.
“We are becoming better schools because of No Child Left Behind,” Wells said, “because the law has forced us to examine what we are doing and to improve.”
One of his chief concerns with the law is that a year’s progress is based on one test one day. “The (Iowa Assessment) test doesn’t measure what we teach and it is causing a lot of schools problems. It is only natural that not all kids give their best effort every day. I think that if we can get a full year of growth (from a student), the teacher is doing a heck of a job.”
Area school districts joining Mt. Pleasant on the DINA list included the following (subject area and years on the list follow the name of the district).
Burlington — math, three years, science, two years; Columbus Community (Columbus Junction) — math, two years; reading, one year; Keokuk, reading, one year; Ottumwa, math, five years, reading, six years.
The following area school districts, in addition to the three aforementioned county school districts, were either removed or are within one year of being removed from the DINA list.
Central Lee, Danville, Fairfield, Ft. Madison, Van Buren, Washington.
Based on 201-2013 performance, 41 of 348 (11.8 percent) public school districts were identified as a DINA for the 2013-2014 school year. That is a increase of 13 school districts who were identified as a DINA for the 2011-2012 school year.
District must meet the AYP goals for two consecutive years to be removed from the list.
Some 643 Iowa public schools (or attendance centers) were identified as schools in need of assistance (SINA). The number represents 47.2 percent of Iowa schools and is an increase of 11.9 percent from the previous year.
Basically, the same criteria are used in calculating and individual school’s performance. If a school does not meet the AYP state participation goals or state AMO in reading or mathematics in either the “all students” or any one of the subgroups for two consecutive years, it is designated as a school in need of assistance.
A school-level decision is based on all of the AYP grades housed at each attendance center (i.e. grade-school students at an elementary school, middle-school students at a middle school, etc.). A school can also be classified as SINA if it does not meet the ADA or graduation rate for two consecutive years. To be removed from SINA status, a school must meet AYP for two consecutive years.
Mt. Pleasant attendance centers on the list include (with the subject areas following the name of the school) Harlan Elementary, reading proficiency; Mt. Pleasant High School, math and reading; Mt. Pleasant Middle School, math and reading; Van Allen Elementary School, math and reading; WisdomQuest Education Center, math and reading.
Many of the Mt. Pleasant attendance centers mentioned above have been on the list for a number of years. The middle school reading proficiency is on the list for the fifth year and math proficiency has not been met at the high school, middle school and WisdomQuest for the fourth year.
Beatty said he is encouraged by improvement shown by the school district last year. “It is one of those things where you would like to see growth or progress in closing gaps,” he began. “We did make some progress in middle school subgroups last year and saw numbers plateau in other schools where we didn’t drop. We did see good things when you look at the changes in some grades. Definitely, we would like to show continued improvement next year.”
Area attendance centers on the SINA list included the following (school listed followed by the proficiency goal — either reading or math — not met).
Burlington — Aldo Leopold Middle School, math and reading; alternative school, math and reading; high school, math and reading; Edward Stone Middle School, math and reading; Sunnyside Elementary School, math and reading.
Danville — junior-senior high school, reading.
Davis County — middle school, math and reading.
Fairfield — high school, math; middle school, math and reading; Pence Elementary School, reading.
Ft. Madison — high school, reading; middle school, math and reading; Richardson Elementary School, math and reading.
Keokuk — high school, math and reading; middle school, math and reading.
Mediapolis — middle school, reading.
Mid-Prairie (Wellman) — middle school, reading.
Muscatine — Franklin Elementary School, math; high school, math and reading; Washington Elementary School, math and reading; West Middle School, math and reading.
Ottumwa — Douma Elementary School, reading; Evans Middle School, math and reading; high school, math and reading; Wildwood Elementary School, math and reading; Wilson Elementary School, reading.
Pekin — middle school, reading.
Van Buren — elementary school, math and reading.
WACO — elementary school, reading; high school, reading.
Washington — Lincoln Upper Elementary School, math and reading; Stewart Elementary School, math; junior high school, math and reading.
West Burlington — junior high school, math and reading.
Last year, 94 percent of the students had to be proficient to avoid placement on the list. This year, which is the last year of the law, the bar is raised to 100 percent proficiency. Wells and Beatty know that won’t happen and most state school districts will be on the list next year.
“Having 100 percent (of the students proficient) is impossible, but there is room for improvement from where we are now,” sized-up Beatty.
Penalties for not meeting goals can include a reduction in federal Title money and replacement of administrators in buildings. The latter has been rare in Iowa, Wells said, but has happened. “The state has the authority to take over the school (for failing to meet goals),” Wells said. “Sometimes, that can happen. It did happen in Des Moines but, thus far, it hasn’t been done at smaller schools.”