Despite overall student improvement, more schools failing’ under NCLB

Sixty three percent of schools that are subject to federal accountability sanctions under No Child Left Behind have been labeled as failing, according to data released today by the California Department of Education.

But paradoxically, for the ninth year in a row, schools across the state saw an overall improvement on standardized tests last spring. Those scores are used to measure schools under the federal criteria, known as Adequate Yearly Progress.

The AYP system, an ever increasing federal benchmark that rose by 11 percentage points this year, has set an unrealistic goal for most Title 1 schools and has prompted education leaders across the state to call it out as flawed.

At school after school, and among every significant ethnic group, California's students are performing better than ever. The failure here is in our politics, not our public schools," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a statement.

Torlakson is one of several state school chiefs who are considering abandoning compliance with federal performance mandates under AYP, though he hopes a compromise can first be reached with the Obama administration.

The superintendent has asked U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to freeze the state's annual proficiency targets so that a new cohort of schools won't be subjected to those mandates. He's also threatened to join with states that have said they would no longer comply with the proficiency requirements.

Although Duncan is critical of No Child Left Behind, relief to California has not yet arrived. Meanwhile, today's results show that 913 schools and 95 local educational agencies have entered into Program Improvement for the 2011-12 school year.

Program Improvement, or PI, is a sanction that targets schools or LEAs that fail to meet AYP criteria for two consecutive years. PI status forces educators to implement a series of state and federally-required interventions over a five-year timeline.

A total 3,892 schools and 445 LEAs - which include districts, county offices of education, and statewide benefit charters - are now in PI status.

On the bright side, the results show that 85 schools and one LEA exited out of PI status.

However, statewide student performance on the state's accountability tool, the Academic Performance Index, jumped by 11 percentage points in 2011.

The average student score is now 778, just under the state's target of 800. Forty nine percent of California schools have now met or surpassed that goal, which is an increase of 3 percent from last year.

The API showed improved achievement among Latinos and students classified as English learners, though the achievement gap persists in California schools.

Latinos and English learners each gained 14 percentage points from last year. Latinos had an average score of 729, while English learners scored 706.

African Americans saw a 10 point gain for an average score of 696.

Asians had an eight point gain for a score of 898, and whites had a gain of seven for a score of 845.

API scores from students with disabilities climbed 15 points to 595.

The API target of 800 was established by the California State Board of Education.

To read more visit: http://www.cde.ca.gov

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