BISMARCK -- Hundreds of public schools in North Dakota are not meeting requirements set by federal law, but the goal set is unrealistic, the state’s top education administrator said.
Of the 455 public schools in the state, only 77 met Adequate Yearly Progress requirements, according to a report released by the department on Wednesday. That’s down by more than 100 schools from last year, when 189 schools met AYP goals.
DPI Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said she was not surprised to see the results, but added it was not any easier to see them.
“To see the schools labeled as not making Adequate Yearly Progress is disheartening,” Baesler said.
The No Child Left Behind Act requires all states to have one accountability system for public schools and districts. This year, schools are supposed to be 100 percent proficient -- a goal Baesler calls lofty.
“The reauthorization of NCLB is overdue and should have been revised in 2008, but has been stalled in Congress,” Baesler said in the release.
In reading, more than 74 percent of the state as a whole was proficient, according to documents released by DPI. Almost 77 percent were proficient in math.
Baesler gave one example that was frustrating. Approximately 96 percent of students at the elementary level in Devils Lake were proficient, she said, but the school did not meet requirements because of a few students -- even if they made progress.
No Child Left Behind has a five-year program for improvement, said Laurie Matzke, the federal title programs director for DPI. A school with a Title I program that is identified for improvement in the first year must develop a plan for improvement. The schools also must set aside 10 percent of their funds for professional development, Matzke said. This year, 42 schools were identified for improvement on the first year.
In the second year, schools must implement supplement services, which can include after school tutoring, Matzke said. Thirty-eight made this list.
“The catch is that it has to be a provider from a state-approved list,” she said, but the state has a waiver so districts can be their own providers.
In the third consecutive year, schools must take corrective action, which includes a menu of choices. This year, 27 schools must either develop a new curriculum, get new management, extend the school day or restructure the school in some other way.
If a school is identified for a fourth year in a row, the school must begin planning for alternative governance, meaning the school may be shut down, turned into a charter school or taken over by the state. The alternative governance is suppose to take place in the fifth year -- 45 schools are in their fifth year of the program.
However, none of those actions are legal in North Dakota, Matzke said. The state has been softer on these requirements. Instead of shutting a school down, the state requires districts to contract with an outside expert and restructure the program in some way.
“We are trying our best to make this as doable as possible for schools and districts because I think we are all at the stage where we realize that No Child Left Behind is way past due to being reauthorized,” Matzke said. “Nobody ever thought we would get to the 100 percent.”
DPI previously applied for a waiver from AYP but withdrew the application in 2012.
“I want relief from the flawed NCLB as much as anyone else, but the new mandates imposed by the waiver requirements are not relief,” Baesler previously said in a release. “The waiver simply exchanges one set of bad rules and punishments for another set of bad rules and punishment.”
DPI is working with legislators to put pressure on Congress to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, Baesler said.
The numbers aren’t all bad, Baesler said. The graduation rate of 87 percent is higher than most states in the nation, being in the top 10. North Dakota also tends to score in the upper half of the nation in reading and math.
The state has several areas to work on, but the government needs to make No Child Left Behind an issue until Congress revisits the law, Baesler added.
“I think it is really important as a state to be knowledgeable about this,” she said, adding the country needs to have a law that does not put a negative label on schools and punish them for their hard work.