Monday, April 26, 2004

Sanctions could follow school tests

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Some schools are facing more pressure than others for improved scores as standardized testing begins today in many Kentucky districts.

More than 340 public schools in Kentucky could be forced to let students transfer if their test scores don't improve enough to meet federal goals as prescribed by the No Child Left Behind law. That could mean less funding since state aid is tied to enrollment numbers.

Another 25 schools face more severe penalties if they fail to boost test scores - including a change of staff, less local autonomy and a state-mandated curriculum.

Most public schools around the state will participate in the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System between today and May 21.

The test results are used to determine whether schools meet state and federal academic goals. The federal goal is that all students are proficient in reading and math by 2014. The state's goal is that all schools are proficient by 2014.

Each year, the state sets an individual goal for each school and judges schools on how much progress they make.

Schools that don't meet state goals receive assistance, such as funding, to help improve instruction and classroom teaching.

Failing to meet federal goals can have harsh consequences, ranging from student transfers to a state takeover.

Parkway Elementary in Hardin County is one school in danger of failing to meet its federal goals. The school improved by four points on last year's tests but still needs to increase its score by nine points this year to meet its state goal. Teachers have focused on improving reading, and they are using results from practice tests to pinpoint weaknesses.

Although some schools may have to allow transfers, the state doesn't expect to have many requests based on how few have opted for transfers since Kentucky started enforcement of the option last year, said Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

For example, Jefferson County Public School officials said 313 students out of about 3,000 eligible have switched schools since January 2003.

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