Middle school scores fall short

A Burbank middle school is on a list released Thursday of schools that have not met federal proficiency targets on standardized tests.

Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank Unified and Roosevelt Middle School in Glendale Unified were among the roughly 2,500 schools statewide that are being monitored for not meeting either math or English student achievement standards two years in a row.

If the campuses do not meet their benchmarks within seven years, authorities could remove teachers and administrators at the school, according to the California Department of Education. The list was one of three charts released Thursday by the state Board of Education to comply with provisions of the 2009 federal stimulus and recovery bill.

That the schools are listed does not indicate they are home to failing students, as some state leaders have suggested, school and district officials say.

Rather, they argue, the federal system that measures student growth is flawed.

“It's not a system that's reasonable or fair to the students,” said Luther Burbank Principal Anita Schackmann.

Luther Burbank made the list because its Hispanic and socioeconomically disadvantaged students, two distinct subgroups, did not meet their goals in math. That means fewer than 45.5% of students were proficient on standardized math tests.

That Luther Burbank's two subgroups fell short of that 45.5% goal is not an indication the school is low-performing or teachers are failing, Schackmann said.

“You can't make a judgment about an entire school based on the fact that two subgroups missed by a few points in one subject area,” she said. “It's unfair to make broad sweeping statements.”

Regulating Annual Yearly Progress is No Child Left Behind, the federal law that requires percentages of students reach proficiency status in English and math. The catch is, the goal grows by 11% every year until 2013-14, and there's no federal funds to help reach the mandate. By 2014, 100% of all students should be proficient.

“It's lofty,” Schackmann said.

The moving target also makes it hard for a school to catch up, school officials said.

“They grew significantly toward last year's target, but did not make the expected growth for the current year's target,” Roosevelt Principal Lynn Marso said. “AYP is about growth, but it's an unrealistic percent of growth annually for all students.”

No Child Left Behind is up for renewal this year. The Obama administration has hinted it favors doing away with the 2014 deadline for 100% proficiency, and U.S. Secretary of Education officials have also discussed replacing the pass-fail aspects of the legislation with a system that rewards annual growth in student achievement.

That is the goal of many of education nonprofits and associations lobbying in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., said Mary LaMassa, who oversees assessments and evaluations in Glendale Unified.

“There has to be a new system that doesn't punish schools and districts for moving forward,” she said. “As long as you keep moving forward, isn't that what success is?”

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