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Report card identifies areas for improvement

Mary Gales Askren
Published: Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

A cursory examination of the Dakota STEP scores doesn’t reflect the good news. The Custer school district made annual yearly progress (AYP) as required under No Child Left Behind at all grade levels for 2011.
“We can relate that back to the kids working hard and the teachers working hard and the support we get,” school superintendent Scott Lepke said.
Statewide, 94 percent of public school districts and 80 percent of schools made AYP, according to a press release from the state Department of Education. 
“South Dakota schools have a solid track record when it comes to meeting proficiency goals. I commend the state’s educators for their on-going efforts to ensure that our students are reaching high levels of achievement,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp in the press release.
However, this year’s success is a reflection of a decision she made earlier this year not to increase the target scores. Instead, AYP was determined using the same targets the state used for 2009-10. 
“If we had increased our targets, as laid out in our original plan when NCLB first came into play, we would have inappropriately labeled additional schools as failing. That’s not fair to the schools, and it’s certainly not fair to their students,” Schopp said.
Custer has definitely seen the impact of that decision. At last week’s school board meeting, Lepke provided information showing how the school would have been affected by higher target scores. While elementary reading classes and most middle school classes would have made AYP with new target scores, the same would not be true for elementary math or the high school.
In those areas, the district did not meet this year’s target either. Lepke explained the district made AYP due to a factor called the confidence interval. Specifically, the state target for math in grades 3-5 is 72 percent. The district had 70 percent of students score advanced or proficient, down from 76 percent in 2010.

A cursory examination of the Dakota STEP scores doesn’t reflect the good news. The Custer school district made annual yearly progress (AYP) as required under No Child Left Behind at all grade levels for 2011.

“We can relate that back to the kids working hard and the teachers working hard and the support we get,” school superintendent Scott Lepke said.

Statewide, 94 percent of public school districts and 80 percent of schools made AYP, according to a press release from the state Department of Education. 

“South Dakota schools have a solid track record when it comes to meeting proficiency goals. I commend the state’s educators for their on-going efforts to ensure that our students are reaching high levels of achievement,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp in the press release.

However, this year’s success is a reflection of a decision she made earlier this year not to increase the target scores. Instead, AYP was determined using the same targets the state used for 2009-10. 

“If we had increased our targets, as laid out in our original plan when NCLB first came into play, we would have inappropriately labeled additional schools as failing. That’s not fair to the schools, and it’s certainly not fair to their students,” Schopp said.

Custer has definitely seen the impact of that decision. At last week’s school board meeting, Lepke provided information showing how the school would have been affected by higher target scores. While elementary reading classes and most middle school classes would have made AYP with new target scores, the same would not be true for elementary math or the high school.

In those areas, the district did not meet this year’s target either. Lepke explained the district made AYP due to a factor called the confidence interval. Specifically, the state target for math in grades 3-5 is 72 percent. The district had 70 percent of students score advanced or proficient, down from 76 percent in 2010.

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