Low graduation rate hinders district

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

A report issued Tuesday said USD 257 was one of 16 Kansas school districts that failed to show adequate yearly progress (AYP) on improving students’ scores on standardized reading and math tests. There is more to the story.
Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools, noted that the student body overall scored above standards on both reading and math tests and AYP threshold scores were surpassed at each school in the district, elementary and secondary.
What hindered the district’s scoring were students enrolled in special education were graduated from high school at less than the target number.
“We had 55 percent graduation rate for students with IEPs (individual educational plans, or special education), while the target is 75 percent,” Neuenswander said.
Overall the district’s graduation rate was 80.2 percent. Graduation rate is based on entering freshmen, which means that students who drop out of school affect the percentage.
As for test results — they were given to third through eighth and 11th graders — success for all students in reading was 85.1 percent, with a target of 76.7 percent, and in math 82.4 percent, with a target of 70.5 percent. Special education students scored 58.6 and 60.9 percent, respectively.
Failure to meet adequate yearly progress means the district is required to develop an improvement plan.
“We have plans in place for the middle and high schools,” Neuenswander said, required a year ago when those two schools initially were reported as falling short of AYP standards. “Then, in March, we learned the report was mistaken and that the high school had achieved AYP. But the improvement plans helped. Last year’s scores at the middle and high schools reflected success of the efforts.”
An outside firm, Cross and Joftus, will work with USD 257 to develop a districtwide improvement plan, Neuenswander said. That will start with a needs assessment.
He noted that improvement plans already in place were released in time for teachers on Wednesday to plan classroom coordination and summer school sessions at all levels, as well as homework makeup and tutoring sessions under the auspices of SAFE BASE during the school year at the secondary schools.

OTHER districts that failed to meet AYP last school year were Coffeyville, Garden City, Goodland, Haysville, Kansas City, Leavenworth, Liberal, Morris County, Mullinville, Ottawa, Parsons, Peabody-Burns, Topeka, Ulysses and Wichita.
Neuenswander said he would have more specific information, including grade level scores, available for Board of Education members to digest at their Aug. 24 meeting.