- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Improvements needed in special education
PERRY COUNTY - Tell City's three public schools failed, individually, to achieve "adequate yearly progress" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but their parent school corporation, like the two others in Perry County, were designated as attaining the status in 2007, according to reports from the Indiana Department of Education.
Special-education students at William Tell Elementary and Tell City Junior High schools achieved passing rates on English and math Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress exams below "confidence intervals," performance targets set for each group of students at a particular school, which can fluctuate depending on the number of students in each group.
In a state Education Department news release on AYP results, Jason Bearce noted "special education remains the most commonly missed target among schools that fell short of making AYP in a single area." He reported 37 percent of the schools that failed to meet AYP this year were deficient in only one category.
Only 54 percent of schools statewide achieved the "adequate-progress" designation, he wrote, up from 52 percent last year.
William Tell Elementary
Results posted at a state Department of Education Web site for William Tell show the percentage of special-ed students passing ISTEP math exams was 50, one-tenth of a point below the score needed to achieve AYP. Because it was so close and because that score was raised from last year's 41.7 percent, Principal Laura Noble said Tuesday, the school was given "safe-harbor" status in that category. The designation is equivalent to making adequate progress, and can be applied when a percentage of students not meeting AYP targets has been reduced by 10 percent from the previous year, or when a school meets an "other indicator" for that student group. Ninety-five-percent attendance rates at lower levels and graduation rates at the high-school level are necessary to qualify under "other indicator."
Special-education English will get special focus in a school-improvement plan, Noble said, noting that she's proud the school made adequate yearly progress in all other of the 17 areas measured, and the school's staff and students should be, as well.
"We made gains in (special-education) math," she said, explaining that was a target area in last year's school-improvement plan. "We're going to continue the improvements we made last year because they're working."
A third level of intervention was implemented last year to help special-education students raise their scores. In addition to core and accelerated classes, they could go to interactive math labs featuring closely supervised computer-based instruction, Noble said.
An emphasis is being placed this year on the benefits of small-group instruction in both English and math, she added.
"We're dealing with data, but also with children," Noble pointed out. "We are data-driven with our instruction. If we're not seeing progress, we look at what do we need to change?"
William Tell is designated a Title 1 school, the only category of schools subject to consequences for failing to meet AYP.
TC Junior High School
Tell City Junior High School is not designated a Title 1 school, so it's not subject to the consequences, according to Bearce's release.
The 38 special-ed students there posted passing rates of 10.5 and 34.2 percent, respectively, in English and math, with confidence intervals of 47.8 and 46.2.
This is the fourth consecutive year the school has fallen short of AYP special-education targets in both English and math, but it was granted safe-harbor status each of the last three years. The designation was granted in the English, math and other-indicators areas for 2004, when English and math passing percentages were 19.5 and 24.4 and confidence intervals were approximately 40 in both areas.
The special-ed English passing rate dropped 1.6 percent for 2005, while the math rate jumped more than 20 points from the previous year, prompting safe-harbor status for that subject. 2006 brought an 11-point rise and safe-harbor designation for special-education English and a 10.1-percent drop in the math pass rate.
Junior High Principal Chad Schenck failed to return calls to The News seeking comment.
Tell City High School
Although its test scores have been significantly higher than its confidence intervals for years, Tell City High School fell short this year in the "other indicator" category. Its graduation rate for 2007 was 76.3 percent, short of a required rate of 95 percent. Schools could also "make AYP" by meeting a requisite to "demonstrate some improvement," according to a fact sheet explaining AYP, but TCHS posted a 3.9-percent drop from its 2005-06 graduation rate.
Principal Dale Stewart said Wednesday he, too, takes pride in achieving adequate progress in all but one category.
"It's a mixed bag around the state on how people feel about the way graduation rates are computed," he said. "If a student is one credit short and goes to summer school to make it up, it doesn't count."
Since 2003, the state legislature has made changes to the way Indiana schools calculate graduation rates. Initial legislation required some students who took more than four years to graduate to be included. Beginning with 2007 rates, only students who entered ninth grade in the fall of 2003 and earned diplomas within four years contributed to graduation rates.
Stewart said English and math labs help students catch up to where they need to be, and letters are sent to parents at the beginning of each student's senior year informing them of any areas that need extra attention. Many students have full schedules and may have to attend the Perry County Learning Academy a couple of times each week to get back on track toward their normal graduations.
The principal said he gets feedback from some parents.
"They appreciate the help we provide in getting their kids caught up," he said.
Cannelton City Schools
Cannelton schools achieved its fifth consecutive adequate-progress designation this year, with passing rates for English and math 15 and 15.8 points higher, respectively, than its confidence intervals. Double-digit percentages above their confidence intervals have been the norm for Cannelton's students the last several years.
The school system was on spring break last week, so no one was available to comment.
Perry Central Community School
Perry Central achieved its fourth consecutive year as a corporation of achieving AYP in 2007. Elementary students posted passing rates 21.7 and 21.2 points higher than confidence intervals set for them in English and math, respectively. Junior- and senior-high students achieved rates 19.4 percentage points above their confidence interval in math and 9.4 points over the threshold for English.
Elementary special-ed students at the Leopold school posted a 42.6-percent passing rate in English, shy of their 49.6 confidence interval, but were given safe harbor for making a nearly 10-percent gain from last year and in the other-indicator category.
Individually, Perry Central elementary students attained scores leading to AYP achievement four of the last six years. Junior- and senior-high students did likewise.
Schools Superintendent Mary Roberson said Friday she and other staffers were pleased to learn they achieved the adequate-progress designation at both the corporation and individual-schools levels.
A team effort focused on curriculum and each student helped the faculty make improvements, she explained.
"The credit goes to all of the teachers," Roberson said. "There's still room for improvement. We're not ready to rest, by any means ... we'll keep working until we get to 100 percent."