The number of school districts in Montana that met annual progress on federal education requirements increased slightly in 2007, but the real progress was among individual schools, Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch said. A report released Thursday by the Office of Public Instruction showed that 363 of Montana’s 425 school districts, or 85 percent, met the “adequate yearly progress” requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2007. That compares with 361 of 430 school districts, or 84 percent, in 2006. The report also showed that 742 of Montana’s 825 public schools, or 90 percent, met the federal requirements. That compares with 752 of 834 schools, also 90 percent, in 2006. However, “those total figures mask some important progress among individual schools,” McCulloch said. Schools that fail to meet the federal requirements are placed in a “school improvement” category and face sanctions. In 2007, “a total of 34 schools had improved sufficiently to completely remove them from the school improvement category,” McCulloch said. “A total of 22 school districts had improved sufficiently to be removed from the school improvement category.” Some of those schools worked particularly hard, said Joe Lamson, a spokesman for the state Office of Public Instruction. Lamson said schools that fail to meet the requirements for one year are put on a “watch list,” and are required to notify parents and review their five-year school plans. Schools on the “watch list” can get off the list the following year by meeting the federal requirements. Schools that fail to meet the requirements for two or more consecutive years face stricter sanctions, Lamson said. For instance, when possible, they’re required to give parents the option of moving their children to another school. They also must implement teacher mentoring programs and spend 10 percent of federal funding on teacher training. Those schools must work harder to be removed from the improvement category by meeting the federal requirements for two years in a row, Lamson said. In 2007, eight Montana school s accomplished that goal: Glendale School, Glacier Elementary and Hidden Lake Elementary in Glacier County; Box Elder High School in Hill County; Auchard Creek School in Lewis and Clark County; Heart Butte Elementary in Pondera County; Camas Prairie School in Sanders County; and Yellowstone Academy Elementary in Yellowstone County. “Adequate yearly progress” is based on reading and math tests given to the state’s 3rd- through 8th-graders and 10th-graders. But McCulloch said that of more importance is the fact that each school’s enrollment is divided into as many as 11 specific groups based on race, ethnicity, family income, limited English proficiency and disabilities. Each student demographic group must contain at least 40 students to be measured for progress in reading and math. A school meets the No Child Left Behind standard only if each of the potential subgroups of students makes the academic progress necessary to get 100 percent of students at grade level by 2014. If any of the groups fail to meet the standards for math or reading or additional requirements for test participation levels, attendance or graduation rates then the whole school fails to meet the federal standard, McCulloch said. And if any school within a district does not make annual progress, then the whole district fails, she said. “The Adequate Yearly Progress reports provide a small piece of a very large picture of the quality of education provided by Montana schools,” McCulloch said. “The AYP reports look only at the specific measures required by the federal government. Parents need to look beyond just one test given once a year. They need to be aware of how well their children are performing on a variety of daily and weekly measures beyond reading and math. “It’s critical to better understand how your local schools are providing the necessary training opportunities for teachers to update their skills and knowledge to meet the future learning needs,” she said. The law requires that 100 percent of all students in all tested grades are “proficient or above” receiving A’s or B’s in reading and math by 2014.