Archive for Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lawrence public schools have little room for improvement

Eight schools in the district missed their annual yearly progress goal.

August 10, 2010


(In)adequate yearly progress

Here are the eight schools in the Lawrence school district that fell short of “adequate yearly progress” standards for 2010, listed with the subjects and subgroups in which they missed:

• Cordley, reading and math for students receiving free and reduced-price lunches.

• Kennedy, reading for all students, white students, students with disabilities, and students receiving free and reduced-price lunches.

• Pinckney, reading for students with disabilities.

• Schwegler, reading for students receiving free and reduced-price lunches; and math for all students, and students receiving free and reduced-price lunches.

• Central Junior High, reading and math for students with disabilities.

• South Junior High, reading for black students, and students with disabilities; and math for all students, students with disabilities, black students, and students receiving free and reduced-price lunches.

• Lawrence High, reading for all students, students with disabilities, black students, and students receiving free and reduced-price lunches; and math for black students.

• Lawrence Virtual, reading for students with disabilities, and students receiving free and reduced-price lunches; and math for all students, students with disabilities, and students receiving free and reduced-price lunches.

Also, for the second consecutive year, the Lawrence school district missed AYP for students with disabilities.

Overall, better than eight of every 10 students in Lawrence public schools achieved proficiency or higher on state assessment tests in math. Nearly nine in 10 hit that level in reading.

But the numbers don’t always hold up within certain populations of students, Lawrence school board members learned Monday night.

Turns out eight of the district’s schools fell short of standards needed to achieve “adequate yearly progress” within at least one of 20 subgroups of students that the state tracks on assessment tests as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

And the district itself missed for the second consecutive year regarding results for students with disabilities. That means the district is now “on improvement,” a designation that requires targeted spending on special programs designed to improve test scores.

Board members listened as administrators said they would review curriculum, classroom assessments and, in some cases, instruction in math; extend after-school tutoring for students needing help in reading and math; and consider buying a data-warehousing system to help teachers tap into assessments and other data to help individual students.

“The great thing about this is the district personnel are aware of the concerns and they have a plan to address it and get in there and fix it,” said board member Vanessa Sanburn.

Because the district is “on improvement,” administrators know they will need to spend $175,554 — that’s 10 percent of the money the federal government provides for schools with a relatively high percentage of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches — on professional development for teachers, to help them strive for improving test scores.

Of some 10,000 students in the district, about 1,350 are identified as having disabilities.

“We have some room for improvement ,” said Kim Bodensteiner, the district’s chief academic officer. “It’s a challenge for all of us, but it is for every district in the state, so we all have to try to learn to do it better.”

Board member Scott Morgan noted that, overall, students in grades three through 12 had performed admirably on the assessments:

• 88.6 percent reached or surpassed proficiency in reading, for which the target level was 81.3 percent.

• 83.8 percent of students hit or surpassed proficiency in math, for which the target was 76.4 percent.

It’s when results are separated into subgroups — based on disabilities, economic status, race or other factors — that some weaknesses in adequate yearly progress, or AYP, get exposed. Such testing began in 2002, and never before have so many Lawrence schools fallen short of the standard in at least one of the subgroups.

“We want to get better everywhere, but our issues are not districtwide,” Morgan said. “We have focused groups, (where) we need to target our resources, our energy. And we waste an awful lot of energy if we don’t look at the really good news in here, which is that almost 90 percent of our kids are ‘there’ on reading, and almost 84 are ‘there’ on math. ...

“If we can keep that in mind ... we can focus our energy on where it needs to go, and those kids that need the help.”

AYP standards increase annually. This year, for example, 83.7 percent of students in grades three through eight were required to reach proficiency in reading; a year ago, the threshold was 82.3 percent.

By 2014, all students are to reach proficiency or better in both reading and math.

“It’s more difficult to attain those targets each year,” said Terry McEwen, the district’s division director for assessment, research, grants and school improvement. “That’s a given.”

Overall, 17 of the district’s 22 schools either maintained or improved their performances on the assessment tests compared with a year ago. More than 95 percent of students at Southwest Junior High School made “proficient or above” in both reading and math.

Woodlawn School is a state nominee to be designated a national “Blue Ribbon School of Excellence,” an award won a year ago by Broken Arrow School.

“The board recognizes that our faculty and our students and our parents — everybody — is doing a really good job here,” said Rich Minder, board president. “Some things are just going to happen. That doesn’t mean that we all have to get alarmist.”


cheeseburger 7 years, 5 months ago

Many of the schools noted are located in neighborhoods which are considered democratic strongholds within the community.

Correlation or coincidence?

LadyJ 7 years, 5 months ago

Also has more low income, corelation ore coincidence?

whats_going_on 7 years, 5 months ago

so...poor people are...smarter than rich?

I don't know, I don't know, WEIRD.

Steve Jacob 7 years, 5 months ago

Congratulations to Kennedy and LHS on hitting the superfecta. Missed on all four groups in reading. No wonder Kennedy has a new principle, not sure what moving all the preschoolers in will help or hurt.

WilburM 7 years, 5 months ago

Principle? How well did you do in reading?

Steve Jacob 7 years, 5 months ago

Also, just learned Kennedy as of now has one forth, fifth, and six grade. So grades will sure to improve adding more kids per classroom then before.

weeslicket 7 years, 5 months ago

@wilburm: principal::principle then::than

are errors of spelling. not of reading for meaning. hope this helps.

Kookamooka 7 years, 5 months ago

Looks like USD497 is leaving behind students who need the extra help. Our average and above average students are doing just fine. They are the easy ones to teach. I'm glad that they will be focusing on helping close the gap.

Bud Stagg 7 years, 5 months ago

"our average and above average students are doing just fine". Above average means they should be excelling, not doing fine. I have one of those students and find the Advanced classes to be a joke and the attitude of some teachers and admins to be apathetic at best. If you compare our programs to that of Shawnee Mission or Blue Valley and Lawrence does not compete.

LadyJ 7 years, 5 months ago

Please explain to me how Virtual School students recieve free or reduced lunches.

GardenMomma 7 years, 5 months ago

Maybe it's based on income. Not that they actually get a reduced or free lunch - no such thing, you know :)

I do think it's determined on whether they qualify for that. Perhaps they receive food stamps or their household income is below a certain level.

GardenMomma 7 years, 5 months ago

And to qualify for free/reduced lunches you need to meet an income threshold.

Steve Jacob 7 years, 5 months ago

And I am sure the 4.6 million in cuts will help scores this year.

LadyJ 7 years, 5 months ago

I do believe Cordley has a lot of students with disabilities, but those students seem to be ok. Maybe teachers at Woodlawn could give some tips to the other schools. The kids that are having to switch to New York school are the lucky ones it seems.

avoice 7 years, 5 months ago

Raintree Montessori for elementary. Bishop Seabury Academy for middle-high school.

Jeff Plinsky 7 years, 5 months ago

The only reason those schools have better test scores than the public schools is because they can select their clientele. If a kid doesn't perform, s/he can be asked to leave. Public schools don't have that luxury. They have to teach all kids, regardless of ability, background, health status, etc. The fact that public schools take everyone, and still get nearly 90% of ALL kids to proficiency is a pretty strong indicator of high quality.

Of course, if you send your kids to a public school, they might rub elbows with other kids who are poor, or have darker skin. They might have to learn how to deal with other kids who have emotional and learning disabilities. Lots of wealthy people in this town are uncomfortable with that, so they choose to segregate their kids behind religious and "preperatory" walls.

Jeff Plinsky 7 years, 5 months ago

And I say this as someone who previously tought at a private high school in another nearby town. Our publicly announced policy was to take anyone who walked in the door. But the reality was, if the kid didn't work hard, caused discipline problems, or couldn't pay the bill, they were "counseled" back to the public school system. If they needed "special services," the school district was required by law to send someone TO OUR BUILDING to work with them, and provide the needed services. You can be damn sure we watched our test scores very carefully, and "counseled" students who were detrimental to them.

anonyname 7 years, 5 months ago

Degenerates?? I don't want my children to deal with kids whose parent(s) are prejudicial and closed-minded. I want my children to realize that all kids have a chance to succeed, and can do so if the adults around them allow them to. I want my children to go to school with children who have parents that realize and accept that those who look, think, or act differently are not inherently wrong or bad simply due to their differences. I want my children to go to school with children who have parents that realize that people of their same skin color/ethnicity/religion/income level/whatever are not assumed to be better than others.

Jeff Plinsky 7 years, 5 months ago

And that is precisely my point. Society isn't like that. We live in a world where some people are motivated to succeed, and some are not. I don't believe you do your kids any favors by sheltering them from these challenges we face as a society. When they emerge into the ugly reality as adults, how well will they cope if they've not faced it as kids?

Public schools are the root of democracy. Everyone is in a room together. Everyone has to find a way to get along, listen to one another, express differing opinions, etc. There are adults there to smooth out the process, but the lesson is an important one. If we shelter our kids too much, we lose this fundamental American value.

Elitism ruined Europe, and caused a lot of "degenerates" to come to the colonies in the 1700's. Personally, I'd rather be with the "degenerates" than the elites. I'd rather my kids grow up with the "degenerates" around them. Then, later in life, when they have a boss, coworker, or employee who is difficult to work with, they will have already developed coping tools and strategies for being successful. And when they are faced with challenges in life, they won't instinctively retreat into a gated community. Rather, they will tackle the problem head-on, and deal with it.

They may face some dangers along the way, if they follow this path. But we live in a dangerous world. And don't kid yourself - rich parents use drugs and own guns too. Rich kids have just as much access to these destructive forces.

Jeff Plinsky 7 years, 5 months ago

This was directed to RATM. I agree with you, Anonyname!!!

Jeff Plinsky 7 years, 5 months ago

My "business" is that I am concerned that our Democracy is polarizing around issues of wealth and class. I believe private education exacerbates that polarization. I don't want my country to turn into a land of nobles and serfs, which is where I believe it is heading. I can't make you send your kids to public schools. But I can sure try to make a compelling argument that all kids ought to be educated together so that they develop an inclusive sense of community. I can point out that kids learn best by overcoming challenges, not by sitting in neat rows and parroting back information. I can point out that the best teachers in town are the ones who embrace all children, and find success regardless of the child's rearing, abilities, motivation, health concerns, race, social class, etc. I can point out that public education teaches more than just reading and writing - it teaches important life lessons.

And for the record, my kids don't get free lunch (as you suggested). They used to be in private school here in town. We placed them in public school because the teachers we had were old, tired, and still using methods from the 1970's to instruct children. Since moving into the public school, my daughter's reading and math scores have progressed faster than they had been in private school, and my son's scores currently exceed the state norms. (He was young enough at the time we moved he had not yet been tested in the private school.) My experience has been that the education in the public schools in Lawrence has been superior to what we paid for at the private schools.

Jeff Plinsky 7 years, 5 months ago

Perhaps I am idealistic, but I think we are both guilty of that. :-)

I would suggest that you look again at public education. I know what my kids are doing today is very different, and far mor rigorous than what I experienced in the '70's and early '80's. Public education is changing, and much of it is better than when I was a kid. I'm guessing you would say the same if you investigated it yourself.

When you argue for the merit of the top 5% over the bottom 5%, you are making the core argument for elitism. I will agree that public education could and should do more for the top 5% than it is currently doing. However, I think putting resources into the bottom 5% is also very worthwhile. Schools are cheaper than jails, and a lack of education is the single largest predictor for people who spend significant time in jail. If we teach them today, we are far less likely to have to house them in jail tomorrow.

And sometimes, those childhood screw-ups turn into very useful adults, provided they have the skills to succeed once they make the decision to get their act together.

Finally, I would also point out that exposing difficult kids to children from healthy, well-tended families is socially beneficial. Those kids my not help your kids (although I've made the argument above that they do, in the long run), but your kids may well help one or two of those kids decide to live differently as an adult. And that reduces your long term tax burden. And your kids'. And your grandkids'. . . .

PattiPlatypus 7 years, 5 months ago

No... really... that's pretty much the definition of elitism. Sweeping generalizations and accusing people who send their children to public school of not valuing education just proves ignorance. And please note... I did not say lack of education... I said ignorance. There is a HUGE difference.

hail2oldku 7 years, 5 months ago

"RATM (anonymous) replies… I don’t want my children to deal with kids whose parent(s) have drug problems or leave guns lying around the house, or are degenerates."

Hate to tell you, but you'll have plenty of those in the private schools in this town as well. I made the mistake of thinking that this kid or that kid was just fine for my kid to hang out with because (s)he had "successful" parents. Boy did that one backfire. YOU have to be responsible for your kids and make sure they are brought up with the values that you want and then trust that they will recognize what is right and what is wrong.

OzD 7 years, 5 months ago

We've got family that are involved with a popular Jr High field trip destination, and it's not the public school classes that are generally foul-mouthed, rude, with no manners. Just guessin', but perhaps it is possible to be a degenerate with drug problems and guns lying around the house, and still have enough money for a private school's tuition. Just because a parent has thrown money at a child's education doesn't mean they've "invested" in their discipline and education of their children. It just means they wrote a check, just like Paris Hilton's parents did.

youngjayhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

As a retired educator parent, I would urge caution against sending your children to Raintree Montessori. I would suggest strongly looking into the number of students that attended, then transitioned unsuccessfully to other school settings and subsequently, dropped out of school entirely. Just a word to the wise.

pea 7 years, 5 months ago

There's a Waldorf school out by the airport. If you're looking into alternatives you should check it out.

GardenMomma 7 years, 5 months ago

Not every black student gets a free/reduced lunch and not every free/reduced lunch student is black.

Stereotype much?

PattiPlatypus 7 years, 5 months ago

Actually, the statistics are based on federal reports and schools are required to keep track of them. Silly yes, but has nothing to do with democrats keeping track. It was Bush who started much of it with the ridiculous specifics of No Child Left Behind.

anonyname 7 years, 5 months ago

You can expect the worst from a child and s/he will live up to it. You can expect the best from a child and s/he will live up to it.

weeslicket 7 years, 5 months ago

is that a 100% guarantee of success on a high stakes test?

avoice 7 years, 5 months ago

As there are so many issues with students with disabilities, I'd like to see a national trend in this area, not just one school district. Now that we are reaching critical mass in NCLB, we may be at the point past which we cannot bring certain populations up to grade-level standards that other populations can achieve. It's quite possible that, depending on the type of disability a student may have, grade-level achievement is an unattainable goal. And continuing to focus more resources on such a small population of students takes resources away from the rest of the students. Hence, we have shot our country in the foot by neglecting to adequately prepare our higher achieving students for global competition.

I do not advocate that we should not provide resources to every group of students. I do, however, believe that setting impossible goals not only drains our resources but also sets up the students themselves for failures and frustrations simply because we expect something they cannot deliver.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

Of course!

If someone has a developmental disability, that means they cannot perform at the same level.

It's common sense.

LadyJ 7 years, 5 months ago

Lol, the more the school tried to tell us and my daughter what she would never be able to do, the more determined she was to show them she could, and the more determined I was to give her the opportunity. Did I have to go into debt to do it, absolutely. Did we have to fight, of course. Was it worth it, absolutely. P.H.D in the near future, colleges were banging at the door to get her into their graduate programs.

puff0312 7 years, 5 months ago

How do you know that the goals are "impossible" or that disabled students "cannot deliver" on expectations? The goals clearly are possible as evidenced by the other districts who meet them. The disabled students in those districts delivered on their expectations just fine. Thanks for writing off the potential contributions of disabled people to our country's global competition. Maybe you should try to value diversity more. You know, many disabled people grow up and achieve great things. But they had people who believed in them and helped get them get there a "different" way than most others do. This district clearly needs more of those kind of people.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

I have no particular bias.

It is simply common sense that developmentally disabled people cannot perform intellectually at the same level - that's what developmentally disabled means.

Requiring schools to make sure that everyone, including the developmentally disabled, performs at grade level, is doomed to fail after a certain point, and is one of the things that NCLB has done that makes no sense.

FWIW, my wife has worked with the dd population for over 20 years, and I have met a number of the people she's worked with, and found them to be endearing, and certainly able to contribute to our society. However, they are clearly limited intellectually by their disabilities.

puff0312 7 years, 5 months ago

What I am saying to you is that all people with developmental disabilities are not the same. You are vastly underestimating the intellectual abilities of many developmentally disabled people. My point is you can't group them all together. Some have intellectual deficits and some don't. Ever heard of Dr. Stephen Shore? He's a college professor and author.....who happens to have autism. His parents were told by doctors when he was 3 yrs old to commit him to an institution. His parents didn't listen to the doctors who told them their son would never be able to achieve anything and instead focused on working really hard with him. See link:

My 5-year-old son with autism is extremely smart and is at a 1st grade academic level even though he's only starting kindergarten this fall. Is he just as smart as other kids? Yes. But, does he need more help than other kids to recognize his full potential? Yes. As a mother, I am admittedly biased. However, the fact is that my son and others like Dr. Stephen Shore should be given the extra help they need if we truly value diversity and the productive contributions of ALL people to our society. What if Stephen Shore's parents listened to the doctors and believed he'd never be able to intellectually achieve?

LadyJ 7 years, 5 months ago

Don't listen puff, my kid has achieved more than most "normal" kids. On the honor roll all through college, B+ was not good enough. On her way to a P.H.D. I remember a doctor at KU Med getting angry and scolding her for wasting my money trying to do something she would never be able to. She did it, probably because he made her so mad. Supportive parents are the most important factor, go for it.

persevering_gal 7 years, 5 months ago

Thank you! Because of people such as yourself, I have fought long and hard against my disability to get to where I am at today - that is the main reason for my online name. My high school guidance counselor told me I would never make it through college due to my disability, and it pissed me off just enough to earn a nice scholarship, a college degree, and a full-time job. I obtained all of this, because I was guided by people who did believe in me.

PattiPlatypus 7 years, 5 months ago

Very true... there are some children- I parent one of them- who will never ever be able to perform at grade level. Ever. You can't pour two cups of water into something that is only able to hold a cup and a half. Money would be better spent teaching some kiddos how to catch the right bus, or fix simple food, or dress themselves even. It makes me very sad when I see parents of children like mine who are in such denial about what their child can do that the parents insist (with threats of due process lawsuits) that their child be provided a one-on-one para so the child can sit , bored, often with behavior problems because the kid doesn't understand, listening to a lecture about "Photosynthesis," or some such thing because the parents can't deal with having a special needs child. Maybe a classroom where those students can learn about, oh, growing plants for food would be good... or learning to make harmless cleaning supplies for home out of baking soda and vinegar for a science project... or going to the grocery store for math... My kid is lucky. His teacher does those things, and his parents don't try to sue the school into forcing his seven year old brain to sit in a high school level class and waste time, money, and the learning experience. Too bad NCLB is like those parents in denial...

salad 7 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like the district really needs to hire another couple of edu-crats to implement dynamic matrix markers within the existing paradigm. Perhaps a couple of "directors of Curriculum" and four assistant superintendants. Each should be paid according to the going rate, so........$120,000 / person.

jackson5 7 years, 5 months ago

The problem isn't the students with disabilities. Other districts do perfectly fine with this group - for example, the Olathe district down the road passed AYP at the school and district level.

And the problem isn't the number of students with disabilities. Per Kim Bodensteiner, we have the state average for % of students with disabilities.

Do we regret spending money on sports facilities and park land, yet? In the past two years, nearly $20 million was spent on those facilities rather than labs, computers, and educational facilities. The state matches funds spent on educational facilities so we would have had extra money this year and next to pay teachers if we had spent that $20M on classrooms, instead.

PattiPlatypus 7 years, 5 months ago

Maybe we should videotape those schools whose students with significant disabilities make AYP... I've been a para and worked in special ed, and I guarantee you, there is enough pressure put on the people who work with certain populations to fudge the results it would make your head spin. Don't kid yourself. Before everyone yells at me, I KNOW there is too much overgeneralizing about folks who are differently abled... but isn't that why we have INDIVIDUALIZED education plans? Or maybe we are so focussed on testing and NCLB that we have forgotten that.

sherlock 7 years, 5 months ago

and please note that the board saved a bundle of money when they closed East Heights for preschoolers!!!!! yep, just cost the district $70,000 to make ready Kennedy for the new little students!!!!! Still robbing Peter to pay Paul! Then they lease old East Heights for $1.00 a year to the Boys and Girls club. Wow what kind of expertese does this show?????

PennyBrite 7 years, 5 months ago

last I knew, Rantree didn't "test" at all.......

Shardwurm 7 years, 5 months ago

Teaching the test has it's merits. Congratulations.

Danimal 7 years, 5 months ago

We need to remember that our testing system in this country right now is a completely ridiculous fantasy that G.W. Bush and Ted Kennedy dreamed up. I guess that it doesn't matter that our students reach their full potential as long as we can get them all to the same level of mediocrity and prepare them to be good little unskilled laborers in the work force.

Escapee 7 years, 5 months ago

At least they recognized a need to 'stop the bleeding' so to speak.... It may not be the best proof of touching every kid in the system, but it's a better first attempt than letting those kids that 'slip thru the cracks' keep falling. As for meeting the needs of all...the can hope for with the current system is hit 'par' for all. Until we are able to infuse the inner city systems and poverty ravished rural areas with a thirst for education as the way out of the dark -- no amount of money is the answer. We need environments that are SAFE and staffed with QUALIFIED teachers who are up to the huge task of educating the next generation.

A public the door that should always be open....

Julie Craig 7 years, 5 months ago

Make. It. Stop. I jump back from my computer screen every time I click on this website and see those awful close-up pictures!! Wow.

Now - regarding the topic: My daughter is one of those kids with learning disabilities. She went through elementary school dreading the sessions with the special education teachers. She also was fully aware that her test scores impacted the school's adequate yearly progress. Even with the stress of being "different" she learned to work hard and compensate. She now has a college degree. You can't force children to want to learn, but these programs are needed and are often successful.

slowplay 7 years, 5 months ago

Of course, parents have no responsibility in this matter. Perhaps a little less Xbox, iPod, TV, computer games, texting and more forced study time would help. My parents did not tolerate poor grades and they never went whining to the school district to provide more "academic resources". My resources were my father's wrath and my mother's endless encouragement. Parent's have no time for their child's education. Let the school deal with it.

PattiPlatypus 7 years, 5 months ago

WOOHOO!! Absolutely! How many kids call their parents names, or kick the dog, or flat out refuse to do their homework unless they get what they want. And parents give in because they are too obsessed with their own greed and drama to have the guts to say NO. I learned when I was in school. I LIKED doing homework because it felt good to do well. Now the only thing kids seem to like is seeing how many soldiers they can kill in their war-training video games. It's a sad sad thing to me.

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 5 months ago

Yeah for us! We have an 80%-90% proficiency at mediocrity!

How really, really sad for our children. The only solution is parent and community involvement. We all need to pitch in, and help with the education of our children. These standards, combined with underfunding of education are going to ruin our kids education.
How about a K-12 educational enhancement task force?
Our children's success in life is on the line. Let's make NCLB a bare, shameful minimum to achieve. Let's raise our standards folks. Our kids and teachers can rise to the occaision. Raise the bar... the kids will go over it.

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 5 months ago

Oh, and Mr. Minder: Stuff happens is not what the President of the School Board should be saying. If the President of the School Board does not set out a serious expectation for excellence in our student's education, who will? Shame, shame.

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