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Failing grades for State report cards

A few weeks ago I read that Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan predicted that approximately 80 percent of the nation's schools would fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress on state exams during the next few years.

To me, that would be no surprise considering the fact that the federal government continues to penalize schools and school districts when a large number of students in the four specific subgroups fail to achieve passing scores on the state English Language Arts and math tests. The subgroups are:

+ Student with Disabilities

+ Ethnicity

+ Economically Disadvantaged

+ Limited English proficient

Locally, we have experienced the lack of logic in these regulations for several years. Most students achieved passing scores on the state English Language Arts tests at both Smith Road Elementary School and North Syracuse Junior High School, and yet the schools were classified as In Need of Improvement by the State Education Department. The reason: a relatively small number of students with disabilities had failed to reach the passing targets. Thus, an entire school was deemed failing.

What has really concerned me for years is the failure of our State Education Department to explain why a school was on the failing list and In Need of Improvement. I often wondered what was behind their evasiveness. Thankfully, the media caught on eventually and has done a good job in explaining that a designated sub group had failed to make the passing target.

Just a few days after Duncan's concerns were publicized, I learned that the New York State Education Department has reset the annual measurable objectives for grades 3 to 8, lowering the passing target from 167 to 122 for English Language Arts and lowering the passing target from 151 to 137 for math in 2010-2011. If these targets were in place last year, all our schools/sub groups would have made Adequate Yearly Progress, except students with disabilities at the Junior High School.

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