As Havre Assistant Superintendent Tom Korst will tell the Havre school board at their meeting Tuesday night, the district has not made Adequate Yearly Progress.
During the 2010-2011 round of tests, among Havre students across the grades tested — third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th — 80 percent were rated proficient in reading and 58 percent were rated proficient in math.
The state-set standard being sought for the past year was 84.4 percent in reading and 70 percent in math, up from 83 percent in reading and 68 percent in math last year. Next year the standards jump to 90 percent in reading and 80 percent in math.
These standards are growing every year, moving toward the national goal, set up in President George W. Bush’s 2002 act, of having 100 percent grade-level proficiency in both subjects for every student in every district in the country by 2014 and ever after.
Many districts are having trouble meeting those goals. This past year, 25 percent of all Montana school districts did not make the mark, including school systems in Havre, Box Elder, Rocky Boy, Gildford, Harlem and Hays-Lodge Pole.
“If the goal is 100 percent, I won’t deny that it is a good goal, ” Korst said. “But I don’t know how we’re going to get there every year. ”
“I think the intention of the whole act is to get us to look at kids individually, to make sure we’re doing everything for our most vulnerable students, even early on. ”
Once classes are beyond a certain size, the test results are broken up into 30 separate groups, divided by factors like race, gender and economic background. If any one of those groups fail to meet the standards, the entire district fails.
If districts fail to make progress enough times, there are a series of consequences that range over time from curriculum review and professional development to be funded by Title I funds, to restructuring of the district, supervised by the Office of Public Instruction.
Havre schools started taking significant steps toward improving in the past year, with a complete math curriculum overhaul, with the establishment of common assessments that allow all teachers to see where students are at by an objective standard.
Math teachers from every school in the districts in Havre have been meeting for several months to review and refine what is taught and the way it is taught according to an internationally recognized “Singapore” style that focuses more heavily on comprehension.
The new curriculum also includes tests, of two varieties, given to students at regular intervals to see where students are during a year and what needs to be done.
Every 60 days a “benchmark assessment” will be given to see how students are grasping the fundamental concepts decided on by the cumulative faculty and administrators.
In the meantime, students are given “short cycle assessments, ” short quizzes given every 15 to 20 days to see how progress toward the benchmarks is going, and who might need a little help along the way.
And because of the collaboration on designing the assessments, faculty from grade to grade will understand what students are supposed to know and, by the past results, what they do understand.
A similar program is also starting at Sunnyside Intermediate School, where reading ability is being logged and tracked, so teachers have an idea of what incoming students are capable of.
If those efforts are not enough to get every single student in the districts to a proficient level by 2014, there could be some changes on the way.
In March of 2010, President Barack Obama sent a request to Congress to make reforms to these laws, as districts were falling behind. After no changes were made for nearly a year-and-a-half, the president and U. S. Department of Education announced that they would be giving waivers to states that were having difficulty, so they could avoid penalties while still working on improving the districts.
Allyson Hagen from OPI said that State Superintendent Denise Juneau was waiting to see what sort of strings may be attached to such waivers before seeking them out.