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Morris Area district falls short of AYP targets

The Morris Area School District is not making Adequate Yearly Progress according to No Child Left Behind standards, despite the fact that both its elementary and secondary school are listed as making AYP.

The Minnesota Department of Education on Monday released 2009 AYP data under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The Morris Area district is among 1,048 Minnesota schools not making AYP, and it's the first time Morris Area has not made AYP.

The Chokio-Alberta, Cyrus and Hancock school districts made AYP.

Morris Area High School Principal Mike Coquyt said "cell size" is the most likely reason both district schools can meet AYP while the district does not.

Students in the elementary school and high school cells not making AYP can be under limits, but when combined it puts the district over the limit, which is why the district is listed as not making AYP, Coquyt said.

The Morris Area district did not meet AYP targets for special education and free and reduced lunch students in reading proficiency. Morris Area met AYP targets in every other subgroup in reading and math proficiency and participation, and met attendance and graduation rate targets.

Almost as many Minnesota schools did not make AYP as did.

Of 2,303 Minnesota schools earning an AYP status in 2009, 1,066 schools made AYP compared to 984 schools in 2008. There were 1,048 schools that did not make AYP in 2009, up from 931 schools in 2008. Almost 190 schools had insufficient data in 2009. Minnesota currently has 283 Title I schools in need of improvement, which will be providing additional options and services to students.

"Every Minnesota student should have the opportunity to receive a quality education," said Alice Seagren, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Education. "While NCLB needs to be fixed, it has focused much-needed attention on preparing every student for success after high school."

But the fact that almost half of the state's districts didn't make AYP has critics saying that it's indicative of NCLB's flaws.

Minnesota 2020's John Fitzgerald said the numbers are not surprising.

"No Child Left Behind is designed to undermine confidence in public schools by ensuring all schools eventually fail to meet these flawed federal standards, said Fitzgerald, the think tank's Education Policy Fellow. "Schools are not afraid of measurement, but inaccurate measurement does more harm than good."

Minnesota has a solid education reputation and districts need more fair and accurate measurements, he said.

"It's irrational to believe, in a state like Minnesota, with graduation and college acceptance rates above national averages, that more than half of our schools are truly failing," Fitzgerald said.

There has been a 7.6 percent increase in the number of schools making AYP, compared to 2008, due to an increase in the number of schools measured for AYP. The increase in the number of schools not making AYP is the result of more schools being measured and proficiency improvements that have not yet matched the increases necessary to meet the AYP targets under NCLB.

Schools that receive federal Title I dollars and are not making AYP two or more years in a row in the same subject are identified as being in need of improvement.

Depending on the number of years they do not make AYP, schools in need of improvement must offer a range of options to students, including school choice with transportation, supplemental services and restructuring.

AYP is a means of measuring, through standards and assessments, the achievement of the NCLB goal of 100 percent proficient by 2014. AYP is structured to ensure that all children have the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.

AYP is determined for the entire school as well as subgroups including racial/ethnic groups, Students with Disabilities, English Language Learners and economically disadvantaged students as measured by participation in free and reduced-price meals. Schools make AYP if the students in these subgroups meet the targets for the percent of students meeting or exceeding the standards on the state assessments in reading and mathematics as well as meeting the participation and the attendance or graduation requirements.

This year, due to the department's interpretation of federal law, additional school types were measured using the AYP calculation. Because of their specialized nature, the students in these schools had previously been included in the statewide AYP measure exclusively. Beginning with this year, the students in these schools will be measured using the AYP calculation at the school, district and state level.

Additionally, the AYP Growth Adjustment is a new measure that provides another opportunity for schools to demonstrate proficiency and gain safe harbor. Students with valid scores in the current and prior year contribute points to their school's AYP Growth measure based upon their growth across achievement levels. The growth targets are the same as the proficiency targets used for Minnesota's index, but do not include adjustment for confidence intervals.