AYP report and budget approval highlight school board action

Although the state didn’t officially release Adequate Yearly Progress results until today, the Bremerton School Board learned Wednesday that Mountain View Middle School will be placed in “School Improvement” status for the 2007-2008 school year. The federal “No Child Left Behind Act” of 2001 mandates all students must meet state academic standards as measured by the WASL. Mountain View met the standard in 34 out of 37 cells, but it is the third straight year the school has failed to meet standards in at least one category, making the school subject to sanctions.

Those sanctions include restrictions on how funding can be used, requiring funds be set aside for professional development. The school must also send its school improvement plans to the state, and send a letter to the homes of all students outlining plans to increase achievement. The district must offer school of choice to all students.

Many other districts in the state also failed to meet requirements, but will not be under sanctions, because they didn’t use federal and state funds to provide additional student services in certain areas where they knew they might have a problem.

“In some ways Bremerton has been gutsy,” said special programs director, Linda Sullivan-Dudzic. “Some districts may have just chosen to use all those funds in the elementary schools, and not used it in at the secondary level. We didn’t play that game. We didn’t want to just say goodbye to those kids.”

Every state in the nation is in violation of the No Child Left Behind Act according to Dr. Bob Hamilton, Bremerton’s director of assessment, special education and school support. Hamilton also said he’d received indications only two districts in the state met requirements in all areas. “The standards are very stringent, but the outcomes are very real, and punitive,” Hamilton said.

The areas where Mountain View failed to meet standards are in reading and math scores for special education students, and math results for African American students. The special education problem is a bit of a catch-22, since by definition special education students are more than one standard deviation behind their peers in achievement, yet they must meet the same standards on the WASL.

“If a district meets standards with its special education students,” Hamilton said, “I suggest they need to re-evaluate how they classify their special education students.”

While admitting he’s impressed with many of the efforts being made at the middle school, board member Louis Mitchell expressed concern about the results for minority students and a drop across the board in scores at the eighth grade level. “I’m not sure we’ve identified what the problem is,” Mitchell said.

The high school failed to meet requirements for the year in two areas, math scores for low income students and graduation rates. The most recent reporting shows a sharp drop in graduation rates in the 2005-06 school year.

In another ironic twist, the success of Olympic College’s GED program actually hurts the Bremerton School District’s numbers. Many of the students who attain their GED from OCC never attended Bremerton schools, yet the college has to seek a release from Bremerton as a home district before enrolling the students. Consequently, those students count as dropouts when the state looks at Bremerton’s graduation statistics.

High school principal Aaron Leavell called the drop in graduation rate “very alarming.” Leavell and his current administrative staff inherited that graduating class when they were already upperclassmen. “On the positive side,” Leavell added, “we’re using this data as being very motivating. We’re rallying the troops and focusing strategically on the ninth grade class.”

All six of the district’s elementary schools met AYP standards for the year.

In other school board action:

• The board unanimously approved the budget for the 2007-08 school year, despite the fact the budget projects the ending balance in the general fund will be approximately $800,000 lower than the beginning balance. The additional dip into the undesignated fund reflects an improvement over last year, however. “I believe this is the best budget we could come up with this year,” Mitchell said. “A budget is a management tool. We need to manage the budget, not have the budget manage us.”

• Supt. Hyde announced she will be joining a group of legislators and educators on a trip to the United Kingdom and Finland from Sept. 29 to Oct. 7 to look at innovative programs for early education practices. The trip won’t cost Bremerton a dime, as the tour is funded by the Gates Foundation.

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