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Duluth school district fails No Child Left Behind progress standards

For the second year in a row, the Duluth school district failed to make "adequate yearly progress" toward standards measured on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment II test given to students last spring.

For the second year in a row, the Duluth school district failed to make "adequate yearly progress" toward standards measured on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment II test given to students last spring.

Duluth was not alone. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, 47 percent of districts statewide failed to meet progress requirements this year, as did 37 percent of schools, including five in the Duluth school district and several other schools in the area.

The federal No Child Left Behind law measures schools' progress toward individual proficiency targets in math, reading, participation, attendance and graduation. If schools and districts reach their benchmarks, they are considered to be making adequate yearly progress.

Targets typically increase every year until 2014, when all students are expected to be 100 percent proficient. However, reading and math benchmarks in Minnesota did not increase this year because of new, more rigorous tests last year.

In the Duluth district, Central and Denfeld high schools, Lincoln Park Elementary and Middle School, Woodland Middle School and the Adult Learning Center fell short of meeting progress requirements this year.

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The most recurring problem was the math performance of students receiving free and reduced lunch, where scores fell below the target.

The district as a whole

didn't meet the progress goal because black students didn't meet proficiency targets in reading.

"As the standards continue to rise, I think it is going to be increasingly difficult for schools in the district and across the state to hit targets," said Tawnyea Lake, assessment coordinator for the Duluth district.

She said that despite missing the goals, most schools improved in problem areas over last year. The district also outperformed state averages in every grade tested in reading except sixth-grade. Several subgroups outperformed state averages in math -- including Asian, Hispanic, black and special education students.

"We are making growth with these kids; I guess our growth just isn't fast enough, and that is what we need to be working on," Lake said.

Of the schools that didn't meet the progress goal this year, Lincoln Park, Denfeld, Woodland and the Adult Learning Center also didn't make it last year. Schools that receive Title 1 money are sanctioned after failing to meet the standards two consecutive years. Only Lincoln receives such money.

Under the sanction, students in Lincoln's attendance area can transfer to Grant, Lowell, Nettleton or Morgan Park Middle School with the district providing transportation.

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This is only the second time a school in the district has fallen into this category, said Katie Kaufman, public relations director for the district. It's also the first time Kaufman remembers the district failing to make adequate yearly progress two years in a row.

Bill Van Loh, Lincoln principal, said the school is identifying strategies to get off the list. To do so, Lincoln will need to meet goals for adequate yearly progress the next two years.

"The good news is that our students' scores went up

4 percent in reading and math, so we are proud of that. It shows our hard work is bearing fruit, we just have to keep reaching to hit those targets," Van Loh said.

Joe Hill, assistant superintendent for Duluth, said the district would revisit its math curriculum and research specific areas with which students are struggling so it can redirect its efforts.

Schools and districts statewide struggled with progress requirements last year when the percentage of districts failing to reach targets jumped from 41 percent to 47 percent. The number of schools failing to meet those goals rose from 24 percent to 36 percent.

"I am not totally satisfied, of course," said State Education Commissioner Alice Seagren. "We know we have a ways to go. We know we have achievement gap issues. But we are ramping up the rigor and our kids are maintaining their proficiency. It takes time to adjust."

Other schools in Duluth

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Harbor City International, Raleigh Edison Charter School and Lake Superior High school also failed to make adequate yearly progress this year.

According to Chris Hazleton, director of Harbor City International, the school missed for falling a half percentage point short of attendance targets.

"As a school, we recognize that student attendance is a critical factor to student achievement," he said.

Raleigh missed for special education reading proficiency. But Washburn Edison Junior Academy saw a turnaround: it had missed progress goals for the past two years.

"We are very happy about the progress we have made at Washburn," said Bonnie Jorgenson, director of Edison.

Area schools

The Cloquet and Two Harbors school districts also failed to make adequate yearly progress this year, as did a handful of schools in those districts and Hermantown Middle School.

The Cloquet district failed to reach proficiency targets in math for special education students. Churchill Elementary, a school in the district, failed to make adequate yearly progress for special education math and reading proficiency.

Special education students in the Two Harbors district fell short in reading and math. William Kelley Elementary and Two Harbors Secondary School also failed to make adequate yearly progress.

Hermantown Middle School fell short on special education proficiency targets in math and reading.

SARAH HORNER covers K-12 education. She can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5342 or by e-mail at shorner@duluthnews.com .

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