With the beginning of a new school year, Minnesota schools are once again faced with the challenge of doing more with less. The districts received their report cards in early August for the 2009-2010 school year detailing how they did toward achieving the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law.


With the beginning of a new school year, Minnesota schools are once again faced with the challenge of doing more with less. The districts received their report cards in early August for the 2009-2010 school year detailing how they did toward achieving the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
NCLB requires schools to make Adequate Yearly Progress toward having 100 percent of their students deemed proficient in math and reading by 2014. Results are determined based on the results of standardized tests given each spring to students in grades 3-11 which are known as the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests.
There are four categories into which students are placed, depending on their test scores: not meeting standards, partially meeting standards, meeting standards, and exceeding standards. Those who meet or exceed the standards are deemed proficient for the purposes of NCLB.
Of 2,291 Minnesota schools earning an AYP status in 2010, 1,060 schools made AYP compared to 1,066 schools in 2009. There were 1,048 schools that did not make AYP in 2010, which remained the same as in 2009. One hundred eighty-three schools had insufficient data in 2010.
“I am encouraged that even as the percent of students required to meet proficiency is increasing each year, we are not seeing a corresponding increase in schools not meeting targets,” said Commissioner Alice Seagren. “We need to continue our focus to help each and every child prepare for college and career success.”
Montevideo continues to wrestle with the issue, again failing to make AYP as a district in 2009-2010. The middle and high schools both failed to make AYP in math, and as a result the district as a whole is listed as failing to make the grade.
AYP is determined for the entire school as well as subgroups including racial/ethnic groups, students with disabilities, English Language Learners and economically disadvantaged students as measured by participation in free and reduced-price meals. Schools make AYP if the students in these subgroups meet the targets for the percent of students meeting or exceeding the standards on the state assessments in reading and mathematics as well as meeting the participation and the attendance or graduation requirements.
For schools with a group (cell) of students whose assessment scores did not meet the target, the school has another chance to make AYP, which is called “safe harbor.” If the school can reduce the rate of non-proficient students in the low scoring group by 10 percent compared to the previous year, the group and school could still make AYP, provided that group also meets the AYP target for either the attendance or graduation rate.
“We made AYP in reading this year,” explained middle school principal Brenda Vatthauer.” We achieved sufficient growth, although not the (target). We made safe harbor.”
The district will have to meet AYP goals next year in reading to get off the failing to make AYP list.
At this time, the district has not made AYP in math, primarily because of the special education subgroup. The staff and administration is looking at the issue as broader than just that, according to Vatthauer.
“We look at it as all of the math curriculum,” she said. “It makes for a tough battle from the get go when (the curriculum) is not smoothly aligned throughout.”
A comprehensive math curriculum review will be done this year to align the curriculum throughout grades K-12.
“We have been and will continue to look at our math curriculum K-12,” said assessment coordinator Monica Stueck. “There are changes that need to be made. The decisions will have to be made and new textbooks ordered in some grades. Because of the expense of books we don’t want to jump into any decisions.”
Teachers will need to look at the textbooks as the foundation, and then work on any weak points they discern. The bottom line is that students be able to apply what they learn to the real world, according to Vatthauer.
“On a positive note, we now have Title I at the middle school,” said Vatthauer. “We haven’t had that in the past.”
Title I funds help students who do not qualify for special education services, but who have difficulty mastering some subjects. Title I targets those students in the bottom 20 percent.  
Despite it being a gamble of sorts to have Title I funding at the middle school because of AYP requirements attached to the funding, Vatthauer is upbeat about being able to help those students who qualify.
“You’re sticking your neck out,” said Vatthauer, “but with Title I you can offer more help to students. We’re absolutely excited.”
Depending on the number of years they do not make AYP, schools in need of improvement must offer a range of options to students, including school choice with transportation, supplemental services and restructuring.