Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/scottsdale/articles/0203sr-failure03Z8.html

Scottsdale district fails federal school standards
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 3, 2004

Ofelia Madrid

SCOTTSDALE - The Scottsdale school district, which typically has some of the highest test scores in the Valley, has failed to meet some federal education standards.

The district fell short in two areas - not enough eighth-graders learning English improved their reading scores, and too many of those students were absent during the AIMS test.

About 40 percent of the state's school districts failed to make what the feds call Adequate Yearly Progress, including Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. But Scottsdale parents aren't used to failing marks in their children's schools.

"I still have great faith in the Scottsdale school district," said Valerie Iverson, who has two children at Tavan Elementary School.

Scottsdale district spokesman Tom Herrmannsaid the federal measure is difficult to attain, and it doesn't mean that all the schools have problems. Because of the nature of Adequate Yearly Progress, if you have all A's except for one C, the whole district fails, Herrmann said.

"We certainly want to make sure that every student is progressing," Herrmann said. "One section fell short, and we need to fix that."

Herrmann said the district fell short in two areas of eighth-grade English-language learners. Federal standards require entire districts to improve AIMS reading and math scores, a state test taken in third, fifth and eighth grades and in high school. The feds also measure the districts on attendance and graduation rates.

The feds require district students in eight separate student groups to meet the standards. The groups include five ethnic groups: African-American, White, Latino, Asian and Native American. The other three groups are students learning English, students living in poverty and special education students.

The district's English-language learners missed the attendance mark by 1 percent. The feds required 95 percent attendance, and the district had 94 percent.

Eighth-grade reading scores also fell short among students learning English. The feds required 31 percent of students to show improvement. The score was 19 percent of students learning English in Scottsdale.

Districts that don't make federal Adequate Yearly Progress must provide state officials with an improvement plan. If a school or district fails the federal standards three consecutive years, state officials can force a change in curriculum or personnel.

Still, Arizona schools chief Tom Horne urged parents to rely on the state, not the federal government, for an accurate picture of their neighborhood schools.

In October, nearly 75 percent of Scottsdale schools were labeled excelling by the state Department of Education, and none was labeled underperforming.

That label is more accurate of what Iverson sees going on in her children's classrooms. "I think the school is doing a lot to focus on state standards," she said. "I just hope the state can help to work out these reporting requirements."

Reach the reporter at ofelia.madrid@scottsdalerepublic.com or (602) 444-6879. Pat Kossan contributed to this report.