Most Montana schools met rigid federal No Child Left Behind benchmarks last year, but a handful of Gallatin County school districts — including Bozeman, Belgrade and Three Forks — failed, most for the first time.
That’s according to the report of Adequate Yearly Progress released Friday by Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau.
Juneau released the eighth annual report in compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. According to the report, 73 percent of the state’s public schools met AYP, or 597 of 823 schools.
One goal of No Child Left Behind is to have all students reading and doing math at grade level by 2014. Schools that fail for two consecutive years must offer students a choice to transfer to another public school in the district, according to OPI.
Schools that fail to meet the standards for three consecutive years also must offer extra tutoring or similar services to low-income students who are below grade level.
Schools are required to meet 41 benchmarks on the state test to meet AYP each year. A school’s progress is calculated based on test participation, academic achievement, graduation rates and other statistics. But every few years, the percentage of students who must pass state tests increases.
Also, according to OPI, if a single group of students fails, the entire school does. And if one school in a district fails, the entire district does.
In Gallatin County, the following schools and districts made AYP: Manhattan, Willow Creek, Springhill, Cottonwood, Pass Creek, Monforton, Anderson, Lamotte, Malmborg, Ophir, Amsterdam and West Yellowstone.
In Bozeman’s elementary district, Morning Star, Hawthorne, Irving, Emily Dickinson and Hyalite schools made AYP, while Longfellow and Whittier did not, according to the report. It was the first year Longfellow failed and the second year Whittier failed.
Bozeman High School also failed for the first time, as did both middle schools — Chief Joseph and Sacajawea.
Down the road in Belgrade, where the district operates five school buildings, only one — Ridge View Elementary — made AYP, according to the report. Belgrade High School, Belgrade Middle School, Belgrade Intermediate School and Heck/Quaw Elementary failed. It was the third year of failure for the high school and intermediate school, the first for the middle school and Heck/Quaw.
In Three Forks, grades K-6 made AYP, as did the high school. But grades 7 and 8 failed. Superintendent John Overstreet said he hadn’t reviewed all of the raw data, but that math seems to be where students struggled.
“Every group’s got to pass,” he said. “We have 90 to 95 percent in reading every year, and in math it seems like it’s a little harder test. We’re working on it.”
Belgrade Curriculum Director Gary Kidd said the high school and intermediate school, having failed for a third consecutive year, has been placed on an OPI watch list and families with children attending the schools will receive a letter from the district offering free tutoring to all students.
While the other schools failed to reach AYP due to subgroups like special education and students who receive free meals, the intermediate and high school failed as a whole to achieve math scores, according to state records.
The outcome will require the district to divert state Title 1 money for tutoring and targeting struggling students, Kidd said. The district receives $495,727 in Title 1 funds and 20 percent will go toward tutoring, while 10 percent will be set aside to boost kids in need.
“When we take out the 10 percent for staff development and the 20 percent for tutoring, it does diminish the dollars available for staff,” he said.
The high school has two years before they can be removed from the watch list, but next year the AYP proficiency bar will be raised even more, Kidd said.
“We can do it in reading, but we are a long way in math,” he said.
High school Principal Kevin McNelis said the school will address the issue and target struggling students in an effort to boost scores this year.