State education officials this week released their first report using a new way of measuring how well Washington public schools are doing at teaching kids reading and math.
The new school accountability system, known as Annual Measurable Objectives, or AMO, is part of Washington state’s waiver from provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Pierce County’s three largest school districts – Tacoma, Puyallup and Bethel – met most of their reading and math AMOs overall, according to results released Thursday. But when data are broken down by race and other subgroups, more targets were missed.
In Puyallup, for example, only white and special education students met their math targets. In Bethel, by contrast, only two groups fell below their math goals: American Indians and special education students.
In Tacoma, students in several minority groups as well as special education students fell short in math. But low-income students made the grade.
Washington, along with at least 30 other states, was granted a federal waiver this year to take a new approach to identifying and helping failing schools.
The old system labeled a school or a district as failing if it did not meet dozens of testing, attendance and graduation rate goals several years in a row. The national goal was to have every kid meet state academic standards in reading and math by 2014. Even with changes in testing and increasing scores over the years, however, it was clear to state school officials that the goal would not be met.
The new AMO system sets goals for increasing the number of kids within each ethnic, racial or other subgroup who meet state standards, with a new deadline of 2017.
Individual goals have been set in every school for every subgroup, using 2011 scores as a baseline. Schools are asked to halve the difference between the starting percentages of students meeting standards and 100 percent meeting standards.
For example, if a school starts with 60 percent of its white students meeting standard in 2011, then that subgroup would need 80 percent meeting standard by 2017. Each subgroup of students will be measured against itself.
In exchange for the longer deadline, parents get several things: more transparency, more dollars to help kids in the groups that need attention, and new rules requiring districts to take a harder look at what they can do to turn the numbers around.
“This is much more of a public, transparent posting of results,” said Alan Burke, deputy superintendent for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Parents can compare their neighborhood school with the school across town and decide if they want to try to move their child to a school that is doing a better job helping kids like them.
Additionally, the state will continue to note schools with consistently low test scores over time.
Districts are required to send parents a letter if their schools are on one of two statewide lists:
• Focus schools: These are the 92 schools – including eight in Pierce County – that make up the lowest 10 percent of Washington’s Title 1 schools, the low-income schools that get extra financial help from the federal government.
• Priority schools: These are the 46 schools – including five in Pierce County – that make up the lowest 5 percent of the focus group.
The state also posted a list of “reward schools,” which are the 58 Title 1 schools – including six in Pierce County – that have either shown the most progress or have top student achievement on statewide tests.
Washington’s waiver agreement with the federal government did not establish penalties for schools that don’t meet their targets in any given year. Possible penalties for failure to reach target by 2017 remain to be determined, according to an OSPI news release.
FIND YOUR SCHOOL ONLINE
To see more details on individual districts and schools and whether they are meeting Annual Measurable Objectives, go to www.k12.wa.us and click on “State Report Card.”Associated Press writer Donna Gordon Blankinship and News Tribune staff writer Debbie Cafazzo contributed to this report.