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More schools fail to hit No Child Left Behind goals

BISMARCK -- More North Dakota schools than ever before failed to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards during the 2011-12 school year, a report released Wednesday by the state Department of Public Instruction shows.

Of the 455 schools included in the report, 257 failed to meet adequate yearly progress requirements, including most of the schools in the Fargo and West Fargo school districts.

Last year, 242 schools did not meet AYP. In 2002-03, 46 schools failed to meet AYP standards, DPI reported.

In the Fargo School District, only McKinley Elementary School and Davies High School met AYP standards, DPI reported.

In the West Fargo School District, only Horace and L.E. Berger elementary schools met AYP standards, DPI reported.

Neither of the districts as a whole met AYP standards, DPI reported.

They're not alone.

Of North Dakota's 178 school districts, 111 failed to meet federal AYP standards, DPI reported.

"The pressures we're seeing in adequate yearly progress are tied to the ever-increasing achievement goals written into the law," said Greg Gallagher, DPI's standards and achievement director,

Those goals range from 91.3 percent of fourth-graders to 85.7 percent of 11th-graders being proficient at their grade level in reading. In math, 86.4 percent of fourth-graders and 81 percent of 11th-graders must be grade-level proficient.

No Child Left Behind goals will bump up to 100 percent grade-level proficiency in reading and math in the 2013-14 school year, unless they are changed by Congress in a reauthorization of NCLB, Gallagher said.

North Dakota is rated the best state in the U.S. in science for eighth-graders, in the top 10 in math, and in the middle of the pack in reading, Gallagher said.

"We're seeing some positive things," he said.

There are 45 potential performance areas an individual school can have in its report, while school districts can have 46 performance areas. If a school or a district falls short of goals in one area, it is listed as not making AYP.

The current system is fast-approaching "a point where nobody reaches AYP," said Fargo Superintendent of Schools Rick Buresh.

"We are definitely supporting DPI's efforts to apply for the waiver" and support efforts to make AYP more realistic, said Buresh, who would like to see a focus on measuring student growth, particularly for English Language Learners or students with individualized education programs.

Last year, the Obama Administration began allowing states to apply for a waiver from meeting NCLB rules if certain standards are met.

NCLB standards can be waived if states develop plans to prepare all students for college and careers, focus aid on the neediest students and support effective teaching and leadership, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.