Schools notebook

More schools miss student achievement goals

In what has become a grim annual ritual, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) reported in August that fewer of its school met goals for student proficiency in reading and math in 2008.

Once again, district leaders pointed to a continually rising bar for student achievement established in 2001 under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

“There are some excellent schools throughout the state that have been labeled as if they were failing,” said David Heistad, director of district research.

MPS students made small gains in math and reading proficiency as measured by their performance on state standardized tests. Still, only 11 of 77 schools made Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, the benchmark for student achievement, a decrease from 2007.

Just more than half of all schools statewide hit their AYP targets this year, the Minnesota Department of Education reported. Of the 1,920 schools that reported an AYP status, 983 schools met their goals for student improvement.

Still, 937 schools failed to meet AYP targets in 2008, up from 727 schools last year.

The news was slightly better in Southwest, where six of the 18 public schools that report test scores made AYP this year, a slight improvement over last year.

Kenwood and Lyndale community schools made AYP, joining a list of four that made AYP last year. Those schools were: Kenwood Performing Arts Magnet, Anthony Middle School, Burroughs Community School and the Lake Harriet Upper Campus.

(The Lake Harriet Lower Campus does not report test scores because it is a K–2 school, and students do not take state math and reading tests until grade 3.)

Schools that miss AYP targets are considered in need of improvement and face a series of escalating sanctions. Schools can only exit the improvement process by making AYP two years in a row.

School sanctions begin with Stage 0, when a school is placed on a state watch list. Schools that continue to miss AYP targets eventually reach mandatory restructuring at Stage 5, a process that can involve changes to school leadership or curriculum.

Jefferson Community School landed in Stage 5 this year, but Heistad said that did not mean dramatic changes were in store for The Wedge-neighborhood K–8.

“There are a lot of different options for restructuring schools,” he said.

Heistad said the Jefferson situation highlighted a weakness in the No Child Left Behind law. Jefferson missed AYP by several measures in 2008, but for years had struggled with just one group.

The school has a relatively large population of special education students, who for several years missed AYP targets in math. At the same time, other segments of the Jefferson population managed to hit proficiency marks.

“You don’t want to punish the whole school for the fact that they have diversity in there,” Heistad said.

Southwest celebrates IB success

LINDEN HILLS — More Southwest High School seniors than ever before completed the challenging, precollege International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, the district reported in August.

Last May, 47 students took the series of exams required to earn the IB diploma and 43 students passed. At about 91 percent, it was also the highest pass rate ever for the school, the district reported.

The nonprofit International Baccalaureate Organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, sets standards for the rigorous IB curriculum currently taught in more than 2,300 schools in 129 countries. The organization was founded in 1968 to create a high-quality educational program for international students.

There are five designated IB schools in the MPS system. Several others will offer IB classes this school year as they work toward official IB school status, including Washburn High School and Anwatin Middle School in Southwest.

More than 30,000 students worldwide completed the IB Diploma Programme this past school year, the organization reported on its website. Although the organization offers a curriculum for elementary and middle school students, the Diploma Programme is a two-year program specifically for high school juniors and seniors.

Among all test-takers worldwide the pass rate for the Diploma Programme was just more than 78 percent this year, the organization reported.

Big Brothers and Sisters needed

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities was seeking volunteers for its school-based program at nine area schools in August, including several in
Southwest.

Volunteers serve as adult mentors to students aged 7–13. They meet once a week at the students’ schools to read, play games or sports, and engage in other activities to bond and build trust. Surveys conducted by Big Brothers Big Sisters indicate the mentor relationships foster more positive attitudes toward school in the students, the organization reported.

Adult mentors were still needed at Jefferson Community School and Interdistrict Downtown School.

For more information, visit the Big Brothers Big Sisters website at www.bigstwincities.org or call 651- 789-2400.