By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre elementary school district did not satisfy the requirements of No Child Left Behind for a second year last year, district administrators learned Friday.
Any district with two consecutive failures is required to send a letter home to parents informing them of that fact, assistant superintendent Dennis Parman said. He is awaiting information from the state Office of Public Instruction on what to include in the letter.
Parman called the elementary district's failure this year an "anomaly." Though both elementary grades tested - four and eight - passed, when the grades were combined, the district failed.
No Child Left Behind, President Bush's sweeping education policy, sets benchmarks for each individual subgroup of the general population, which is broken down by ethnicity, economic status and students with disabilities. If one of those subgroups misses the academic standards established for the general population, the grade fails.
A subgroup must include at least 40 students to be reported. Subgroups with fewer than 40 students are not reported to protect student privacy.
This year the fourth grade had no subgroups other than white. The eighth grade had white and economically disadvantaged subgroups, both of which met the academic standards
When grades four and eight are combined, that creates subgroups of Native Americans, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students.
At least one of those subgroups did not pass, though Parman said he has not yet looked at the data to see which group or groups failed.
Also, too few eighth-graders took the test. The state requires 95 percent participation.
The high school district passed last year, but not the year before.
In keeping with the No Child Left Behind Act, the Montana Office of Public Instruction evaluates schools and districts based on attendance as well as participation rates and performance on MontCAS Phase II - the state's No Child Left Behind academic performance test. Fourth-, eighth- and 10th- graders participate in the state's test each year.
Havre High School this year had a reportable number of white students and economically disadvantaged students - both of which passed, as did the general population.
For 2003 results, subgroups of as few as 10 students were reported. HHS had subgroups that were white, American Indian, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. Students with disabilities did not meet the academic standards and HHS did not have sufficient participation in the test.
For 2003, grade four passed, while Havre Middle School failed due also to test participation and academic performance among students with disabilities.
Parman said the fact that each grade and each school passed this year was "good news." Repercussions for a school that does not satisfy No Child Left Behind are more serious than repercussions for a district. A school that fails twice must create an action plan and invest in tutoring for economically disadvantaged students, with requirements tightening for every subsequent failing year, Parman said.
HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller said he'd like to get an official letter from the Office of Public Instruction and look at the state's information before commenting on Havre's No Child Left Behind status. He said he had no reason to believe Havre's results would be any different from what he and Parman learned by phone Friday.
Administrators were pleased with Havre's test scores, which were released in September and compared well to the state as a whole.
The state academic performance standard required that 40 percent of students were at the proficient or advanced level in math and 55 percent of students at that level in reading.
An average of 55 percent of Havre fourth-graders were proficient or advanced in math, while 45 percent of students were statewide. Havre eighth- and 10th-graders also were strong in math, with 72 percent of eighth-graders scoring at proficient and advanced levels, compared with the state's 64 percent, and 70 percent of Havre 10th-graders, compared with the state's 60 percent.
Differences in scores between Havre and the state were closer in reading, with Havre slightly ahead.
On average, Havre's Native American students scored better than those in the state as a whole. But the scores of other subgroups were below the state average. Havre students receiving free or reduced lunch - the indicator the state uses for economic disadvantage - scored below the state average in 10th- grade reading, while still passing the performance standard. Students who received extra help on the test - special education students or students who have trouble testing - scored below the state in the eighth and 10th grade for both reading and math.