All Walla Walla schools short of federal improvement goals

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WALLA WALLA -- The Walla Walla School District and all district schools are in some level of needing improvement based on the latest state assessment released Tuesday.

As part of the federal No Child Left Behind law, all students are expected to meet standards in reading and math by 2014. As part of the ranking system, called Adequate Yearly Progress, schools and districts must meet key improvement goals year after year or face potential sanctions.

For the last several years, an increasing number of schools and districts in Washington state have failed to meet their goals.

In Walla Walla, all 10 schools are at some level of needing improvement, although not all face the same level of intervention.

Walla Walla High School and Lincoln Alternative High School are both in step 5, which means students have failed to meet goals for about six years. But district spokesman Mark Higgins said that because Wa-Hi and Lincoln are not Title I-funded schools, federal sanctions would not apply.

For schools classified as Title I, the stakes are higher. The district's elementary schools, with the exception of Berney and Prospect Point, all receive Title I funds, as does Garrison Middle School. These schools are then subject to federal interventions if they continue to miss Adequate Yearly Progress targets.

Berney, Blue Ridge, Prospect Point and Sharsptein are currently at step 2, meaning targets were not met for about three years. Edison is at step 1, which happens after two years of failing to meet goals; Green Park entered step 3. Both middle schools also moved into step 3, while the city's Alternative Education Program at Walla Walla Community College remained in step 1.

The district itself was in step 2 for failing to meet targets. Overall, only Prospect Point Elementary and Pioneer Middle School met AYP. So did the district's Homelink program for home-schooled students, and the Alternative Education Program.

Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Mick Miller said the numbers don't necessarily tell a full story of the progress individual students are making in the classroom, but that the district is committed to taking the necessarily steps to helping raise achievement scores.

He noted the district would be setting aside about $300,000 from the budget for after-school supplemental education, as required by NCLB.

"We will do what the law tells us we should do," Miller said. He said the district is also already doing a lot of what NCLB requires, such as aligning curriculum and setting aside collaboration time among teachers.

"The things the federal government is asking school districts to do now, we've been doing," he said.

He said individual accomplishments, within schools and with students, shouldn't be lost in the lump data of state exam results and AYP benchmarks. He said children often pick up concepts and learn standards at different times, at their own pace.

"That's my biggest problem with the uniform bar, is that they're not uniform kids," he said.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives. Walla Walla Public Schools Adequate Yearly Progress results

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