Nearly 40 schools in nine Pierce County school districts have been named to the state’s list of struggling schools – and a list of struggling but improving schools – using a measure known as Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs).
The nine Pierce County school districts named Thursday are Bethel, Clover Park, Eatonville, Fife, Franklin Pierce, Peninsula, Puyallup, Sumner and Tacoma.
Last year was the first time AMOs were reported. Under a federal waiver granted to Washington and other states, they replace measurements that were known as Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), designated under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
AMOs are unique yearly targets in reading and math for each subgroup, school and school district in the state. They are derived by calculating “proficiency gaps” for all students and for 10 subgroups of students. Subgroups include students in special education, English language learners and racial groups.
The gap is the percentage-point difference between a group’s level of proficiency on state tests in the baseline year of 2011, and 100 percent proficiency. The federal waiver requires the state to cut proficiency gaps in half for all students, and all subgroups, by 2017.
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. Only subgroups that have at least 20 students in a school are reported.
Possible federal penalties if a school does not meet its overall target in 2017 remain to be determined.
“The 2017 targets are realistic expectations for schools and subgroups, but they aren’t the end goals,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said in a news release Thursday. “It’s important that all students reach their full potential and we will not stop working to ensure that happens.”
Josh Garcia, deputy superintendent for Tacoma Public Schools, said that while AMOs are one measure, they do not gauge academic growth for specific students or groups of students. For example, last year’s seventh graders are compared to the previous year’s seventh graders.
“These are different groups of kids every year,” he said. “It doesn’t tell us if individual kids are learning at a higher rate.”
Tacoma, Pierce County’s biggest school district, has 15 schools on the list announced Thursday. Garcia said results in Tacoma reflect statewide trends.
He said Tacoma is working to reverse those trends with several initiatives:
The district has opened more preschools in an effort to give low-income students and kids with special needs a boost before kindergarten; elementary schools are using report cards designed to show parents where specific learning gaps occur; and every school has been assigned an academic coach to help teachers.
Here is a link to find your district or school: reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/AMO.aspx?year=2012-13