- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The majority of North Dakota schools have met the state’s Adequate Yearly Progress goals, but much of their success comes from the state’s waiver from U.S. Department of Education measures.

Most North Dakota schools were deemed failing and faced sanctions last year under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the Bismarck Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1KXIQxm ). But the waiver allows North Dakota to throw out students’ standardized test scores in determining whether schools and school districts meet the goals, said state Superintendent Kirsten Baesler.

North Dakota’s AYP is instead based on the percentage of students who take the test and schools’ graduation and attendance rates.

Baesler said 168 North Dakota school districts met AYP this year and eight failed. Only 13 made adequate progress last year.

“I’m pleased that this many schools were able to meet AYP,” Baesler said. “It prevents them from having to go into another year of punitive sanctions.”

Students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 took the new Smarter Balanced standardized test this spring, which is an online exam based on the Common Core math and English standards in use throughout most of the country. In past years, the North Dakota State Assessment, which was administered on paper, was used to determine AYP.

“You cannot compare the old assessment results to the new assessment results because it’s a completely different test,” Baesler said.

Schools and districts labeled “failing” face tiered sanctions depending on how many years they have not met AYP. Penalties range from allowing students to transfer to passing schools, to spending money on consultants for teacher training or even handing over management of the school to the state.

Those sanctions were put into place more than a decade ago by federal lawmakers who crafted the No Child Left Behind Act, which required all states to administer standardized tests. To avoid penalties, schools had to show that their students’ test scores continued to improve.

Congress is considering two bills that will do away with AYP. Baesler said Friday she supports the measures, which give states authority to determine how to hold schools accountable for student performance.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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