Archive for Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tests show four schools not making the grade

Principals say results don’t show complete picture

October 12, 2005


Four Lawrence schools fell short of standards required by the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to reports released Tuesday by the state.

But principals from those schools said they don't believe they are failing their students.

"Hopefully people will take a global look at the school and celebrate the successes, but also understand that we are working on our challenges," said Trish Bransky, Southwest Junior High School principal.

Southwest fell short of its goal in making "adequate yearly progress" toward getting all students proficient in reading and math by 2014, according to the Kansas Department of Education.

Other schools that fell short:

¢ Central Junior High School.

¢ Lawrence High School.

¢ Free State High School.

Quail Run SChool librarian Jane Imber reads to a group of fifth-graders who chose to skip their recess to hear "Stumptown Kid" by Carol Gorman, an author who will be visiting the school later this month. Quail Run students received high marks on their reading skills during state tests.

Quail Run SChool librarian Jane Imber reads to a group of fifth-graders who chose to skip their recess to hear "Stumptown Kid" by Carol Gorman, an author who will be visiting the school later this month. Quail Run students received high marks on their reading skills during state tests.

The state on Tuesday released results for tests in math, reading, science and social studies. Test performance is reported in five categories: unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, advanced and exemplary. Nearly 73 percent of Lawrence students performed at proficient or above in reading. In math, nearly 72 percent of Lawrence students performed at least at the proficient level. Statewide, 64 percent of 11th-graders were proficient at reading; 51.2 percent of 10th graders were proficient at math.

There was some success.

At Quail Run School, about 48 percent of fifth-graders performed in the exemplary level in reading. Principal Paulette Strong said there were several factors in that success, including hard-working students and teachers.

Strong said the school integrates subjects rather than teaching them in isolation.

"It's the idea of really helping kids experience learning in a holistic way," she said.

Small changes

No Child Left Behind requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Schools may make yearly progress toward that goal.

But, according to administrators, seemingly small changes in a school's population or program offerings at times can make a difference in whether a school hits the target.

Southwest Junior High School achieved the Kansas Standard of Excellence in math in 2002-03, Bransky said. But math was the area that prevented the school from meeting the goals for adequate yearly progress this time around - even though there were fewer students who scored in the low end and more who did in the higher end.

What changed? No Child Left Behind also tracks subgroups in school populations - and Southwest students receiving free or reduced-priced meals didn't improve enough to meet the standard.

"That's a national issue and a state issue and district issue, just not a Southwest Junior High issue," Bransky said.

Bransky said the first thing she did when she received the scores was to review them to see which students didn't perform well. All of them already are receiving additional academic help, Bransky said.

"I can tell you that we're working really hard to reach (the goals)," she said.


LHS Principal Steve Nilhas said the school didn't meet the target because it missed its reading goals.

"I would absolutely not say the school is doing fine until every student is doing well," Nilhas said. "The bottom line is we're going to have to get serious about teaching reading. We have kids coming to high school who can't read."

After a few moments of searching, Pinckney School fourth-graders Xavier Newman, left, and Khadijah Lane point to Iraq on a globe.

After a few moments of searching, Pinckney School fourth-graders Xavier Newman, left, and Khadijah Lane point to Iraq on a globe.

He said improving students' reading abilities often requires one-on-one attention or small-group instruction, which can be expensive.

At Central Junior High, educators believe additional short-term funding to help students with their math helped boost scores in the past. But when the funding stopped, the scores dropped and that's one reason the school didn't meet the federal target, Principal Frank Harwood said.

Harwood said the school is trying to do a better job of identifying students who need extra help. And he said he hopes missing the target won't overshadow the school's other successes.

"When somebody sees that, it's a very negative thing and it covers the whole school," Harwood said. "In reality, we have a lot of students who are doing very well."


Kookamooka 12 years, 7 months ago

I think it's ridiculous to discount very good schools that care about kids just because they don't meet the unfunded educational mandates of a president who, himself, was "left behind".

neopolss 12 years, 7 months ago

A system of pass/fail based on the slow kid in school cannot be an effective program. It's poorly designed and underfunded to begin with.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 7 months ago

Bail out of the NCLB as others are doing. The next step should be the termination of the incompetent Bush administration ASAP. Perhaps indictments will stimulate the process.

While were at it dump the KBOE for mismanagement of funds and fraud, hiring unqualified staff and becoming dysfunctional.

ECM 12 years, 7 months ago

Blah Blah Blah

Interesting that the unfunded private schools have no problem teaching their kids. In fact their kids all perform many grades higher....hmmm how could that possibly be???

More liberals blaming the president. As always great at pointing the finger.

absolutelyridiculous 12 years, 7 months ago

Interesting how schools are supposed to perform immediately when the program has until 2014 to be fully implemented. Stupid waste of tax payer dollars and it pushes a standard that not ever kids will ever be able to achieve. My experience is that is has allowed our teachers to be more lenient with test scores in order to appear to be in "compliance" When will America ever stop thinking we are the best. That is just the same materialistic, nationalistic crap we've been living with. Teaching isn't about teaching anymore, it's about test scores. Duh...who's the stupid ones here!

Horace 12 years, 7 months ago

I agree with even_money. There are wonderful opprotunities for the elite of Lawrence. The article makes clear that the ones awho are struggling are poor. Do they really matter?

bobi 12 years, 7 months ago


There may be supposed money in place to provide assistance to those who have learning difficulty, however, I personally know of a large portion of students who are not receiving aid. In fact, I work for an agency providing support to those falling between the cracks. I find it astounding that no one gets upset until reports such as this appear. Do something, don't just assume the so called government is taking care of things.

average 12 years, 7 months ago

ECM - Could it possibly be because the private school can choose which students it admits.. thus does not have to mainstream severely mentally handicapped children and average them into their wonderful statistics? Could it be because students from less-enriched backgrounds don't have the resources to be put in private schools?

bobi 12 years, 7 months ago


We see higher achievements from those in private schools for several reasons:

  1. Those who have chosen to place their kids in private schools do so because of the lack of achievement in public schools (not due to a lack of competent teachers). We have some wonderful teachers in our public schools.

  2. Because the parents are very involved in the educational lives of their children and strive for success. Thus, we see a display of high achievement among their children.


  1. Because upstanding moral and ethical practices are not forefront in public school environments.Therefore, we see a break down of morality with focus being too much on popularity and personal appearance.

Jamesaust 12 years, 7 months ago

I agree with Principal Nilhas. Continued focus on every child's progress is paramount.

Welcome to the "real" world where excuses are not accepted and results are demanded. How many bosses at XYZ corp. right now are saying, "Not good enough. See that it get's done," to their employees? How sobering to think how much lower their performance would be without such demands. How sad to think performance in this context is life-limiting poor education.

llmccorkill 12 years, 7 months ago

When was the last time you read State assessment scores form a private school? The requirements are very different. That's why they are private and unfunded.

laughingatallofu 12 years, 7 months ago

NCLB is a joke. People who believe in that political ploy are about as ignorant as the jokesters who implemented that fantasy in the first place.

Steve Jacob 12 years, 7 months ago

While I hate Bush, and dislike NCLB, I like the effort to make schools accountable. How is that possible? To be honest, that impossible. NCLB is the best possible.

And I will remind people of 15-20 years ago in college about Prop. 48. It said students (players) entering college had to score an certin score on the ACT or SAT, or miss a year. This was viewed as racist, since almost all that failed where black. But test scores has raised since then.

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