Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2005

District students shine

August 18, 2005

De Soto USD 232 and its schools easily cleared the latest No Child Left Behind hurdle.

Each of the district's nine schools recorded at least one standard of excellence on state assessment tests given last spring.

"We are ecstatic about the progress our students are making as our teachers find ways to reach them," Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said.

Eight of the nine district schools recorded a standard of excellence in reading and six made that standard in math. That is important, Zoellner said, because No Child Left Behind uses scores in those two subjects to determine if schools and districts make the adequate yearly progress the act demands.

As a district, 82.3 percent of district students tested at or above the proficiency level in reading and 75.3 did so in math. That far exceeded the federal standards set this year for adequate yearly progress of 58 percent proficiency in reading and 46.8 percent for math.

Starside Elementary was the only school not earning a standard of excellence in reading. It did, however, obtain that standard in math, as did Mill Valley High School, Lexington Trails Middle School, Mize Elementary, Prairie Ridge Elementary and Riverview Elementary.

One challenge facing Starside in reading is its many students from Mexico who arrive in the district with little or no English skills. It is a challenge that receives little recognition in the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires students new to the country perform at the level of their peers within a very short time.

Zoellner said the district has made a concerted effort to provide the students the instruction and resources needed to improve their English skills. That effort received some aid from the school finance package the Legislature approved last month that makes added state funding available for English as a second language instruction.

Zoellner has criticized the No Child Left Behind Act in the past because of its demand that all students eventually test at the proficiency level despite their level or English proficiency or learning limitations stemming from developmental disabilities. Some acknowledgements of those difficulties were made recently, Zoellner said, and she was hopeful more would be forthcoming.

"We hope that down the road as regulations are improved there might be more acceptance every child is improving and learning at a rate the child is capable of achieving," she said.

In all, the district recorded 20 standards of excellence, with Lexington Trails and Mill Valley leading the way with four each. De Soto High School, Monticello Middle School, Mize, Riverview, and Prairie Ridge elementaries all obtained two standards of excellence.

De Soto High School Principal David Morford said his school earned a standard of excellence in social studies as well as reading. In addition, they narrowly missed that standard in science.

Also Tuesday, the district released results from the ACT tests taken by last year's seniors. District community relations director Alvie Cater said the scores of the district's students taking CORE classes of four years of English and three years of math, social studies and natural science improved by a point and the district's composite score improved by nearly the same.

Improvement on ACT tests scores of a 10th a point are rare, Cater said.

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