By Jason KUROSU
Starting at the beginning of the Glendale Unified School District’s second quarter – Nov. 2 – approximately 50 students from Glendale High School and Hoover High School transferred to Crescenta Valley High. This is an extension of the ideas developed in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, a bill which emphasized education reform based on standards assessed through statewide tests such as the STAR test in California.
The U.S. Department of Education determines a school’s progress by measuring its AYP or Adequate Yearly Progress, which is determined by a series of benchmarks. If a school does not meet the designated AYP for two consecutive years, the school is identified for Program Improvement, meaning that the school will be required to carry out reforms to meet the standards. Glendale High and Hoover High are Program Improvement schools this year, which was what led to the transfers of students to Crescenta Valley High, as Program Improvement schools are required to allow alternative attendance opportunities for their students. No Child Left Behind’s designations for Program Improvement mandate that with each subsequent year that the school fails to meet the AYP, the reforms become more and more substantial, including the possibility of replacing the school’s entire staff or even closing the school down.
However, GUSD Deputy Superintendent John Garcia sees the standards and the Program Improvement designation as misleading in its evaluation of a school’s success or failure.
“Glendale and Hoover are both great schools,” Garcia said. “But they operate under a flawed system, with students that don’t speak English as a primary language. These things make it difficult to meet the standards.”
A flawed system, because Program Improvement schools may actually be improving, even though they didn’t meet the AYP standards. For instance, Hoover actually improved from 2009 in the statewide API scores, but because English language learners did not meet the AYP, Hoover is Program Improvement.
Glendale’s API score declined by only a single point, but because English language learners did not meet the AYP two years in a row, Glendale High is Program Improvement as well.
Crescenta Valley, on the other hand, only increased its API scores by three points, compared to Hoover’s 10 point improvement. Also, Crescenta Valley’s English learner subgroup, like those of Hoover and Glendale, did not meet its AYP target. But because the subgroup did not fail to meet its target for two consecutive years, the school was not designated as Program Improvement.
“If at least 57% of any subgroup in the school did not meet its target, the school becomes a Program Improvement school,” Garcia said.
A subgroup is a group that represents at least 15% of a school’s total population and is made up of at least 50 students. While the schools reached AYP targets in some of the subgroups, it takes only one not meeting its target to have the entire school fail to meet its mark. Even more concerning is that the proficiency targets only increase year by year.
“By 2014, the AYP target is 100%,”Garcia said, “as in it’s expected that 100% of the students in every school in the district will meet the AYP proficiency targets in English and math or else become Program Improvement schools. It’s unrealistic.”