Some area school districts receive sanctions and awards
Monday, December 15, 2008
By Lindy Bavolek
Some school districts that received federal sanctions this year for not making enough progress are now receiving a state award for distinction in performance.
That's because the state looks at a broader range of data, including ACT scores, college placement rates and availability of advanced courses, while the federal government focuses mainly on test scores, holding all subgroups of students accountable.
So some districts that received criticism when Missouri Assessment Program results were released in August are now celebrating their state distinction.
The state's education department doled out awards to 330 districts out of 523 this year. Chaffee, Delta, Jackson, Leopold, Oak Ridge, Oran, Kelly, Woodland, Zalma, Altenburg, Kelso and Nell Holcomb made the list. Absent from the list are Cape Girardeau, Meadow Heights, Perryville and Scott City. All the districts are fully accredited. For Jackson, this is the 11th year for the district to receive the award.
"I think it's having a faculty and staff that understand that we're always trying to improve. We're not satisfied to just remain where we are," said assistant superintendent Dr. Rita Fisher.
The accolade comes four months after the district was placed in the first level of sanctions under No Child Left Behind. The district as a whole did not meet targets in math or reading for two consecutive years. While students on average met the standards, qualifying the district for the state award, subgroups of students did not. Those subgroups include students classified as special education, black or receiving free or reduced-price lunch.
Similar situations, where a district received the state award but moved into improvement status under the federal government, occurred in Oran, Kelly and Woodland.
Jim Morris, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, referred in an e-mail to No Child Left Behind mandates and Distinction in Performance indicators as "two different galaxies." No Child Left Behind is largely building focused, he said, while the state's accreditation mechanism recognizes districts.
Jackson superintendent Dr. Ron Anderson said he supports "the accountability standard," but thinks some of No Child Left Behind's requirements are unobtainable."With some of those [subgroup] populations, it's not realistic. With this, you have a better chance. The subgroups are more of a bonus category," Fisher said.
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