Arizona school districts between AYP rock and hard place
The Glendale Star
September 22, 2006
More than one-third of state schools fail to meet federal accountability
By Jean Bihn
Some Northwest Valley school officials say they are caught between the
proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to the best interests of students
with special needs.
Deer Valley Unified School District Director of Student Achievement Vicki Meyers
said two federal mandates, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability act
and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA) have dueling guidelines.
IDEA requires school officials to provide non-standard accommodations, such as
calculators or reading a test aloud, to students with special needs, while NCLB
prohibits the same helps.
As a result, six of DVUSD's 35 schools did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress
(AYP) benchmarks set forth by NCLB.
AYP is based on, among other things, academic achievement, which is measured by
the AIMS test; and a requirement that 95 percent of students in a school take
the state-mandated assessment.
If a student is allowed the use of a non-standard accommodation to complete the
AIMS test, they are not counted toward a school's 95 percent tested.
"All six were (because of) non-standard accommodations," Meyers said. "We told
all the schools, you need to do what's best for kids."
Although every Peoria Unified School District school made AYP in the
2004-2005 school year, 15 of the district's 35 eligible schools failed to meet
the requirements in 2005-2006.
PUSD Deputy Superintendent Denton Santarelli said, "The district made a
conscientious decision to enforce the student IEPs (Individual Education
Plans) that are required by IDEA."
Teachers and districts are forced to choose between following an IEP or No Child
Left Behind so schools and the district will make AYP, Santarelli said.
"As a district, we made a decision that we were going to err on the side of our
students, and we were going to provide our students with what is required in
their Individual Education Plan," he said. "As a result of that, we basically
forfeited AYP because of the 95 percent rule."
Santarelli noted that all PUSD schools made the necessary academic gains to be
in compliance with NCLB.
The number of Arizona schools not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) more
than doubled over last year, and Arizona Department of Education officials
blamed changes in federal guidelines.
Of 1,861 schools across the state evaluated in the 2005-2006 school year,
618 did not make AYP. Forty evaluations are still pending.
ADE spokesperson Amy Rezzonico said state officials determined the addition of
English Language Learners and a lack of special education non-standard
accommodations were behind the increase.
Previously, ELL students were allowed three years to get up to speed before they
were added into the ranking, but officials shortened that to one year.
In the Glendale Elementary School District, Assistant Superintendent for
Administrative Services Mark Joraanstad said of 12 schools not making AYP, nine
schools failed because ELL subgroups did not meet the AIMS test objectives in
"ELL was paramount," he said.
GESD schools making AYP were Glenn F. Burton, Glendale American, Horizon,
Bicentennial South and Sunset Vista.
Just one of Glendale Union High School District's three schools in Glendale made
AYP, Glendale High School. Both Apollo and Independence high schools failed to
meet the required 95 percent tested.
"Clearly, there's a dilemma," GUHSD Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and
Instruction Jennifer Johnson said, "because federal regulations require that a
student's IEP be honored at all times. It's a legal document."
Johnson said GUHSD officials would not tell students with special needs that use
of a calculator is okay for 179 days, but on this "one most important of days,"
the accommodation is not allowed.
"It's a Catch 22," she said.
AYP results for all Arizona schools may be accessed on the Arizona Department of
Education's Web site at www.ade.az.gov by selecting "School AYP Determinations
2005-2006" under the heading "Hot Topics."
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or (623) 847-4611.