Fed, state tags confuse school
Arizona Republic
Oct. 14, 2005

Carrie Watters
A sign on Desert Sky Middle School on West Grovers Avenue proclaims "National School of Excellence A +."

The state labeled the school as "excelling" last fall.

Yet some parents are confused and educators are frustrated that the school recently was designated as the only one in the Deer Valley Unified School District that failed to make "adequate yearly progress" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. That dichotomy comes from state and federal governments that measure a school's success differently. Arizona's School Achievement Profiles look at how students, as a whole, perform on state tests. Desert Sky students, as a whole, fare well.

Federal standards check test results to see how groups within the student body perform, including English language learners, minority students and impoverished students. At Desert Sky, it was special-education students who came up short on the state reading test.

Principal Don Morrison said he doesn't like the way the federal law labels a school based on one subgroup.

"I hate like heck to have the community see us as a good school or a bad school based on a label," he said.

Every student, special education or otherwise, is supposed to pass state tests in 2014, or the school faces a federal label of inadequate. District special-education director Michael Remus questions a law that tries to force everyone into the same mold.

"People have different achievement levels," he said. "It's going to force us to have much higher expectations for kids."

Educators are looking at what happened at Desert Sky, where students did improve reading and math scores over the prior year.

But some of these kids may not have gotten the extra test help that they were supposed to receive. Only three of 32 students who should have gotten extra help had documentation that the help was given.

Vicki Edwards, the district's director of student achievement, said that she can't tell whether that was a clerical mistake or whether the extra help actually was not there.

Teachers said appropriate help was provided in their classrooms.

Reach the reporter at carrie.watters@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-6934.