By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Five area schools have made the cut after the state Office of Public Instruction issued a revised list of schools that have met new federal education guidelines.
Sunnyside Intermediate School, Chinook Junior High School, Harlem Junior Senior High School, and Big Sandy High School are among the 40 additional schools now found to be meeting adequate yearly progress, the passing grade of No Child Left Behind, President Bush's sweeping federal education law.
On Aug. 14, OPI issued a list of schools not meeting the requirements of the new law, which sets strict standards for attendance, completion rates, participation rates in standardized tests, and reading and math scores on those tests. According to the first list, 21 percent of Montana schools - 179 schools - did not make the grade, and another 27 percent - 231 schools - still had to be determined.
Fourteen area schools were on the first list. Some of the area schools, like Sunnyside and Big Sandy High School, did not make the standards on the basis of test-participation rates.
Others, like the junior highs at Chinook and Harlem, could not be immediately classified by OPI because they had one or more subgroups too small to identify, or because OPI was missing or needed clarification on subgroup data.
On Tuesday's list, 21 schools were removed and one - Helena Capital High School - was added. The office also decided that 20 schools that had not been classified in August are now classified as having made the grade. That means that 57 percent of the state's 862 schools meet the requirements, 18 percent fall short, and the status of another 25 percent - 211 schools - will be determined after further review.
Schools had the chance to appeal OPI's findings by Aug. 22, and about 25 schools statewide did so, including Sunnyside, Box Elder, and Big Sandy. OPI then checked its numbers for errors and issued its revised list on Tuesday. Forty of the 44 schools examined since the first list came out - and 11 out of 12 school districts - met the standards, according to OPI.
Havre Public Schools Superintendent Kirk Miller said he was happy with the ruling.
"Certainly I'm pleased because the school has been identified as meeting (the standards)," Miller said, adding that he hopes parents will remember that Sunnyside is not out of compliance despite OPI's initial list. OPI found Sunnyside's test participation rate was above the 95 percent requirement, not the 92 to 94 percent it originally calculated.
Miller said that even though he is pleased with the decision, Havre High School and Havre Middle School did not make the standards, and his focus will be on changing that over the next year.
Rocky Boy Elementary School also asked to have its status reconsidered, but was not included on OPI's list.
Donna O'Neill, the unit director of measurement and accountability at OPI, said today that Rocky Boy had applied for a special "safe harbor" designation. The designation allows schools that technically fall below the required test scores to still meet the standards by demonstrating improvement on the test scores and adequate participation rates among student subgroups.
O'Neill said Rocky Boy made safe harbor status in math, but did not meet the requirements in reading in every subgroup, so the school has been identified as needing improvement.
Rocky Boy Elementary School principal Sharon Patacsil said today the fourth-grade students with limited English proficiency and the special education students did not make the necessary 10 percent increase in their reading test scores to qualify the school for safe harbor status.
Patacsil said she is not disappointed with OPI's decision. She said that before test scores were broken down into subgroups of students, the performance of minority and special education students was hidden at many large schools. There was no accountability at many of the larger schools whose students scored well on the tests on average, but may have been leaving groups of students behind.
"Now everyone has to look at all the subgroups, and I think that's the good thing about (the new standards)," she said. The new data, she said, reveals that American Indians at Rocky Boy Schools are scoring better in some cases than the Indians in Havre schools.
Patacsil said she expects grades one through six at Rocky Boy to test proficient in math and reading next year.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.