School district fails to meet ‘No Child’ goal

The Clark County School District in 2008-09 failed for the fourth time in seven years to meet federal standards for educating its students.

The district will suffer no sanctions as a result, but the poor performance does open it up to more public criticism.

School district officials, who released the results for each school and the district itself on Thursday, blamed the failure in math and English testing not on the performance of most schools, which have improved overall, but on the performance of student subgroups.

The poor test scores of some subgroups can affect their school’s and the school district’s overall grade under No Child Left Behind and can mean the difference between making what’s called adequate yearly progress or not.

A school can be judged to be poor performing if it fails in one of the subgroups, which include

Asians, American Indians, blacks, Hispanics, whites, the economically disadvantaged, special education, and limited English ability. Attendance and graduation rates are also criteria for the schools as well as the district.

The school district will have an even more difficult time showing progress next year, since the academic bar will be raised as much as 12 percentage points in some categories. For example, elementary school proficiency rate requirements are rising from 52 percent to nearly 64 percent. This is the percentage of students needing to show grade-level competence or proficiency.

“It’s going to be a real challenge,” said Sue Daellenbach, assistant superintendent for assessment.

The ultimate goal is to have 100 percent proficiency rates in reading and math by the 2013-14 school year, meaning every student passes the tests.

The objective is lofty enough that a school administrator muttered sarcastically, “That’s going to happen,” during the news conference.

Because the Obama administration and Congress are preoccupied with the recession and two wars, local school officials said they expect the federal law to remain intact indefinitely.

For next year, the district will be placed under a “watch” designation, which does not come with any formal consequences except for the negative publicity.

School Board President Terri Janison pleaded Thursday for the public to view the results with some perspective.

“You might think the world is coming to an end, but labels can be misleading,” Janison said.

Although the district did not meet performance measures, Daellenbach said the district “has made across-the-board” progress in the seven years of No Child Left Behind.

Middle school math proficiency rates, for example, have increased from 37.4 percent in 2003 to 61 percent for 2008-09. For Hispanics, proficiency in middle school math has more than doubled from 22 percent to nearly 51 percent.

Because schools are continually pushed to make the 100 percent goal, they are judged against last year’s performance.

To show adequate yearly progress, they must either reduce the number of nonproficient students by 10 percent or more or increase the number of proficient students by 10 percent or more.

Schools are also responsible for the performance of the nine subcategories of students. The district as a whole failed to show progress because of the performance of some subgroups across the different grade levels for math and reading, Daellenbach said.

Elementary and middle school students take nationally based criterion-reference tests, and high school students take state proficiency exams.

Of the district’s 361 schools, 190 schools made adequate yearly progress and 171 didn’t.

Of the 171 that did not make it, 38 missed it by one target category and 37 by two target categories, said Lauren Kohut-Rost, deputy superintendent for academics.

Superintendent Walt Rulffes was not at the meeting Thursday.

Officials were especially proud of three schools — West Prep Academy, Tate Elementary School and Bridger Middle School — that made “adequate yearly progress” after six years of being stuck on the “needs improvement” list.

“This feels great,” said David Smith, assistant principal of Bridger.

He credited the turnaround to a schoolwide commitment to making sure every students achieves.

Valley High School made the leap of “needs improvement” from four years ago to making exemplary status, its first ever school to make such a turnaround. “Needs improvement” means a school must change the way it does business, such as starting new academic programs or hiring new staff.

Principal Ron Montoya said the school was restructured to give students more attention and a better sense of community. The school is home to two magnet programs in tourism and international baccalaureate, which attract students from around the county.

But the magnet programs account for less than a third of the total school enrollment, Montoya said. Most of the students come from the neighborhoods surrounding the school near Eastern and Sahara avenues.

Montoya can feel pride in his school and not have to worry too much about the budget cuts.

Because it is a considered a Title I school, or a school with a large population of low-income students as defined by federal law, it will receive $575,000 in federal stimulus for the new school year.

“We are sitting pretty,” Montoya said.

Contact reporter James Haug at or 702-374-7917.

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