Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0929schoollabels-ON.html

More than 100 Arizona schools fail federal standard

The Arizona Republic
Sept. 29, 2003

Monica Mendoza

Half of the 226 Arizona schools that the federal government said needed to improve students' performance on state exams over last school year have done just that.

That's worth celebrating, said Tom Horne, the state's education chief, after the performance list was released Monday. But there is work to do: 110 Arizona schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress, the standard required by the federal government.

Those schools have one more year to get better or risk having students flee to better schools, and paying for their transportation. And the punishment gets progressively worse over the years for schools that never improve.

Most parents don't want to flee underperforming schools, said Lucy Ranus, Arizona PTA president.

"Parents want to work with the schools and principals to bring up the standards in their school," Ranus said.

Horne is hopeful that state intervention this school year will stop schools from a continual academic slide.

Parents of children in those 110 schools that did not make progress can expect to see principals and teachers from successful schools coming to their child's school to help, giving teachers strategies that have worked in other schools.

Schools were judged using test scores from the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards. Federal law requires that 95 percent of the students must take the state exams.

It also requires that students in certain groups, divided by ethnicity and economic background, pass the test.

If even one of those groups fails, the whole school fails.

And it may get even more complicated for parents.

Later this month, Arizona will release its list of schools that the state deemed "underperforming," "performing," "highly performing" or "excelling."

The state uses a different formula to come up with its labels. Horne said it is possible that some schools deemed as poor performing under the federal ranking system might be considered "performing" under the state's system.

Some Valley principals view the federal report as a preview of the upcoming state labels.

At Don Mensendick School in Glendale, the news so far is good.

"It tells us we are not as low as everybody says we are," said Steve Preis, Mensendick principal. "We are capable of good work."

The federal report released Monday only includes schools that receive federal funds under the Title I program. Those schools have a high number of children who qualify for free lunch. Research shows that children living in poverty have a tougher time in school. The federal money is meant to provide enhanced academic programs for those children.

Reach the reporter at monica.mendoza@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-6934.