Alice Campbell Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Seventy-two percent of Montana schools met federal No Child Left Behind standards, but Havre Public Schools failed to make the overall grade. Several schools made the required 83-percent proficiency in reading tests, but couldn't muster the 67-percent proficiency in math, as did the other schools in the district. The proficiency level requirements jumped higher for last year's tests, 9 percent for reading and 17 percent for math. While he views the tests as good, Especially for getting parents involved, Director of Education Andy Carlson said that the tests don't convey what students know overall. "There's not a perfect test, and it doesn't paint a picture of what a child's capable of doing," he said. Despite the final scores, Carlson said he's not disappointed and that "I think we do a lot of good things." There are 41 ways that a school is required to pass, and if one area fails, the entire school fails. The system is based on groups including all students and then the subgroups of Amer ican Indian, As ian, Hispanic, Black, white, Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, students with disabilities, limited English proficient and free/ reeduced lunch. Participation, attendance and graduation completion rate also are factored. One hundred percent of students took the tests in Havre. That translates to 21 ways to fail in the Havre elementary district and 11 in the high school district, Carlson said. Grades three through eight and 10 take the assessments, with 100 percent of Havre students taking the tests. "Furthermore, if any school within a school district does not make AYP, then the whole district does not make AYP," a press release from the state Office of Public Instruction said. Statewide there have been improvements. " ... 8th grade students in only two other states scored higher than Montana students in reading. These same students rank 10th in the nation in math," Linda McCulloch, the state superintendent of public instruction, is quoted as saying in the press release. "Montana's 4th grade student math scores improved by 14 points among American Indian students and improved 18 points among low income students receiving a free or reduced meal." A five-year plan for Havre schools is being reviewed this year, and Carlson said the standardized test section will definitely be looked at, with how to improve math scores, a top priority. He said he'd like to see a way to track student's progress in math using "benchmarks" throughout the year, which would help teachers make better instructional decisions for students. It's important to get a system in place that is advantageous to the school overall and also to individual students, Carlson said. The five-year plan was up for review statewide this year, anyway, and is required because of the test scores, Carlson said. Also, "we have to take 20 percent of our Title 1 funds, and we have to freeze those funds" to make them available for parents to use in getting extra help for their children, Carlson said. "We make a contract between the parent and the provider," he said adding, that most of the providers are Web-based. A list of the available services and providers is sent in letters that are already being written, he said. A lot of programs are in place in Havre schools already that Carlson said parents can also choose. Carlson said that parents are welcome to discuss student scores with him to understand them better. "I encourage parents to call me," he said.