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SF School District Finds Flaws In NCLB Numbers

October 18, 2011, 5:03 PM by Nicole Winters

SF School District Finds Flaws In NCLB Numbers
SIOUX FALLS, SD - School Districts are required to meet certain assessment standards each year under No Child Left Behind.

In South Dakota, those standards are measured using the Dakota STEP Test.  In Sioux Falls, a second look at those scores show the students are doing better.

Teachers and students have a high assessment level to reach under No Child Left Behind. It requires students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014, a goal many educators feel is unrealistic. But it's one they're trying hard to get to.

"It is frustrating yet they dig their heels in every year and they meet the needs of those students," Coordinator of Assessment for the Sioux Falls School District Sharon Schueler said. 

Schueler oversees Dakota STEP test assessments as a measure for No Child Left Behind.  When progress reports first came out, numbers showed the district had an 81 percent graduation rate. 22 of the district's 34 schools were making adequate yearly progress. 14 were on school improvement and three were on alert. But after a closer look, Schueler filed 10 appeals with the South Dakota Department of Education, all of which were accepted.

"We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty where a student makes a difference, one question makes a difference. For all of their hard work, they need somebody to take that second look," Schueler said.

The district's numbers showed Lowell Elementary and Hayward Elementary actually did make AYP, raising the number of schools making AYP to 24.

Lowell is now off the school improvement list. If Hayward makes AYP one more year, they too will be taken of the list.

The revised numbers also showed the district's graduation rate jumped to 85.5 percent.

"That is really a nice robust rate considering we went to the new calculation method of using the cohort group who were students here at ninth graders and must graduate in four years," Schueler said.

As the standards continue to go up, it's a positive sign for the district as they work towards those higher assessment goals.

Schueler says the district believes in the concept of No Child Left Behind and says if it were to go away, the district would continue with accountability tests. However, she does say the standards are extremely difficult to reach because she says it compares apples to oranges. It also requires ELL students and students with disabilities to pass the tests at the same level as every other child and that's not always possible.



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