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.
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.
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."
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."
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