- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

RICHMOND — Eighty percent of Virginia’s public schools met annual performance benchmarks under the federal No Child Left Behind law, but four schools must restructure after failing to show progress for the fifth straight year, state education officials said yesterday.

Preliminary figures show that 1,460 of 1,821 schools met all the “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) goals in 2004-05 established under the education reform law that took effect in 2002.

The figures are largely tied to increased student success on the state Standards of Learning (SOL) exams. An additional 338 schools failed to meet the objectives.

The state Department of Education said 111 of Virginia’s 763 Title I schools are subject to federal sanctions for failing to meet the benchmarks, down from more than 200 last year. Title I schools receive federal funds to serve children from low-income families.

Sixty-five of those schools failed to make “adequate yearly progress” for the second straight year.

Those schools must notify parents that their children have the option to transfer to higher-performing schools within the district. If the U.S. Department of Education approves a request from Virginia, schools will be able to offer tutors before transfers.

Thirty-four schools missed the benchmarks for the third straight year and must offer transfer options and tutoring for students.

Eight schools — five in Richmond — are in their fourth year, which requires them also to take corrective action, which can include changing staff and curriculum, and extending the school day or school year.

Four schools are in their fifth year of missing AYP, which means their school divisions must replace school staff, turn operations over to a private company or become a charter school. Two schools are in Petersburg, and the others are in Richmond and Portsmouth.

The status of 23 schools — most in Rockingham County — has yet to be determined because of the small number of students tested or other reasons, the education department said.

Among all school divisions, 63 of 132 made the benchmarks, compared with 29 last year. Rockingham County’s status hasn’t yet been determined. Divisions that failed to meet benchmarks for two consecutive years must expedite plans to raise student achievement.

As a state, Virginia met the benchmarks for the first time by meeting or exceeding 29 objectives related to statewide testing, partly because the U.S. Department of Education allowed Virginia to lower proficiency rates for students with disabilities.

“Virginia’s success in meeting the objectives of No Child Left Behind reflects the progress our schools and students have made since the adoption of the Standards of Learning” in 1998, said JoLynne DeMary, superintendent of public instruction.

State education officials also noted that a school could be improving overall but still be listed as failing to make adequate progress for falling short on just one objective.

The federal law requires that at least 95 percent of students overall and in subgroups — including black students, disabled students and economically disadvantaged students — take the state’s reading and math SOL tests.

At least 65 percent of students overall and in each subgroup had to pass the reading test for a school to be considered proficient for the 2004-05 school year, up from 61 percent the previous year. In math, it was 63 percent, up from 59 percent.

However, schools that fall short can still make the grade if they reduce failure rates by at least 10 percent.

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