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NCLB: Many southwest North Dakota schools fail to meet progress goals

More than half of the schools in southwest North Dakota failed to meet the goals of the Adequate Yearly Progress test instituted by No Child Left Behind. Education officials said Friday the results come as no surprise.

Of the 178 school districts in southwest North Dakota, only 67 met NCLB goals, a decrease from last year's count of 77. Seven of 17 schools in The Dickinson Press coverage area met NCLB goals.

School districts can meet requirements and still have results below goals, said Greg Gallagher, director of the Department of Public Instruction Standards and Achievement. Schools with less students may fall within a larger margin of error and pass.

The decrease was expected because the goals were set higher last year, Gallagher said.

All students should be at grade-level expectations by the 2013-14 school year, which the director said is unrealistic.

"In your life experience, is there anything that is 100 percent of anything?" he asked. "The 100 percent is a high-level policy statement, and by its nature, it has definite pressure on reality."

School districts may be identified for Title I program improvement if they do not meet AYP goals. The state must inform the parents of students enrolled in schools for the identification. The districts must also revise their improvement plan within three months.

Title I is a federal program for "at-risk" children who struggle with reading and math, said Laurie Matzke, DPI State Title I director.

Glen Ullin Elementary School and Killdeer Elementary School were identified for improvement plans for the first time, according to a Friday press release.

Mott-Regent Elementary School, Richardton-Taylor High School, Dickinson's Heart River Elementary School, Roosevelt Elementary School and Berg Elementary School were identified for a second consecutive year.

Dickinson High School, Killdeer High

School and Mott-Regent High School were also identified.

The results should not be taken as a reflection on schools, Matzke said, adding each one has strong and weak points. The tests can be used to focus on enhancements.

"Everybody knows you need school improvement and there is always room for improvement," she said. "It does not automatically mean it is a bad school."

Dickinson Public Schools is taking steps to improve learning, such as having workshops for teachers and individualizing student learning, School Board President Kris Fehr said.

She added the test needs to be made for the characteristics of districts and states, but schools should not turn a blind eye to the results.

"The No Child Left Behind Act is one tool that we can use, but there are others to use," she said. "It's really unrealistic to think that 100 percent of all kids would become proficient by a certain year, but it is realistic that all kids can learn."