13 more schools miss test targets

Thirteen more Wichita schools fell short of state testing targets this year.

That means more than half of Wichita public schools — 52 out of 85 — didn't meet the standards set by the State Department of Education for math or reading or both, according to test results released Tuesday.

"As the bar goes up, more and more schools struggle to meet that proficiency level," superintendent John Allison said.

"Again, no excuses. But we're saying to parents: Don't let this be how you judge your child's school. ... This is just one measure."

Each year the state requires that a higher percentage of students pass math and reading assessments to make the "adequate yearly progress," known as AYP, required by federal law. The No Child Left Behind law requires all students at all schools to pass state assessments by 2014.

"Unfortunately, what folks read into AYP is that this school is failing, and it's not," Allison said. "In many cases there's good, substantial growth" on improving test scores.

Statewide, the number of schools that did not meet adequate yearly progress increased by 48 percent, and the number of districts missing the targets more than doubled.

Wichita, Derby, Haysville and Valley Center did not achieve districtwide targets, according to Tuesday's report.

Suburban schools that missed achievement targets include Derby Sixth Grade Center, Haysville West Middle School, Maize Middle School, Goddard Academy, Valley Center Middle School, and Prairie Elementary and Campus High School in Haysville.

"None of these districts, including Wichita, are doing a bad job. In fact, we are doing a much better job today than five years ago," Allison said. "As AYP targets continue to increase ... more and more schools will be unfairly labeled as unsuccessful."

Interim Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said "high percentages of (Kansas) schools and school districts meet and exceed" the federal requirements despite ever-increasing performance targets.

"Unfortunately, in some instances the targets are growing at a more rapid rate than performance," she said in a written statement. She commended schools for "remaining focused on student achievement even as the success markers keep moving."

Wichita's state assessment scores in 2010 remained largely flat, with reading proficiency increasing by 0.2 percent and math proficiency decreasing by 0.2 percent.

Proficiency is measured by the percent of students able to read or perform math problems expected at their grade level. Since 2003, district reading proficiency has increased 14.6 percent and math proficiency 23.2 percent.

Allison cautioned parents not to panic if their child's school didn't meet test targets. They should instead visit the school and ask questions, he said.

"How are you received when you visit? Is it a positive learning environment for your child? Are they making progress? Is the building as a whole showing progress?" Allison said. "We have many, many success stories that aren't reflected in this one measure."

With each successive yearly report, educators point to the impending 2014 deadline, when all schools are expected to reach 100 percent proficiency under No Child Left Behind.

"It's like saying to Ford, 'Every car you manufacture will be perfect when it comes off the assembly line — no ifs, ands or buts,' " Allison said. "And if not, you're a failure."

Related stories from Wichita Eagle