Lindbergh students meet standards of NCLB, but hill gets much steeper

By SCOTT MILLER

Staff Reporter

Lindbergh School District students are meeting the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind Act so far, but the hill just got much steeper.

Though school district officials have several programs in place to help students make the climb, “nevertheless, the No Child Left Behind that looms before us is a great challenge,” said Clint Blandford, Lindbergh director of curriculum. “But if we pull ourselves together and continue to organize, I think we’ll be back here with more good news.”

No Child Left Behind is measured by the percentage of students meeting “proficiency” in mathematics and communication arts on Missouri Assessment Program tests. And next year, that percentage requirement nearly doubles.

For example, 38.8 percent of each student subgroup measured must be “proficient” in communication arts next year, compared to only 20.4 percent this year. The subgroups are broken down based on economic status and race.

The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 mandated schools across the country to bring every student to “proficiency,” or grade level, by 2014. Schools must make progress each year, and each state sets the level of progress required. If schools don’t make “Adequate Yearly Progress,” or AYP, for two consecutive years, they must pay for students not meeting standards to attend school in another district. The financial penalties could mount.

In Missouri, required progress jumps every four years, meaning only slight progress is needed for three years but then school districts must make a much larger leap the fourth year. The trend continues until 2014, when 100 percent of students must be learning at grade level.

Each state also defines what it means to be proficient. In Missouri, “proficiency” is equivalent to receiving a “B” on a test, or answering at least 80 percent of the questions correctly, Blandford said.

Blandford understands the extreme challenge facing Lindbergh and all school districts throughout the state, but is confident Lindbergh has the tools in place to steer students toward success. The district was one of few St. Louis area districts to meet AYP in every student subgroup and academic field measured this year. And according to district data, Lindbergh students perform above state and national averages on knowledge assessment tests.

“But we have to get better each year. We can’t even afford to just maintain our growth,” said Nancy Rathjen, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “We have to make sure that we’re not only looking at the students’ academic growth but we’re also looking at their social and emotional needs as well.”

“I’m optimistic that it’s possible to do this,” Blandford said. “It’s getting to the point that every single student needs individual attention.”

To target the individual, Lindbergh has hired a new reading coach, implemented testing software to give teachers more time to teach with less time to grade and stepped up its after-school instruction.

The number of students attending after-school instruction doubled last year from 272 to 544 during the 2003-2004 school year. And the number of teachers helping has tripled to 72, many being recently retired teachers.

Kathy Bay, director of instruction, said data shows that students receiving after-school instruction are performing better on tests. More and more of them have met No Child Left Behind standards the last two years, she said.

The district’s second strategy is Tungsten Benchmark Assessment technology, which allows teachers to track students electronically month-by-month without having to grade by hand.

“Teachers are able to quickly see who is proficient that month,” Bay said. “It has enabled teachers every month to adjust their instruction … it really creates a lot more productive instruction.”

Superintendent Jim Sandfort said, “There are not many school districts that are using Tungsten. We were in the forefront of that. It was quite an addition to the tools we have to work with kids.”

In addition, a new reading coach, Donna Raznik, is giving teachers professional development, keeping them up to date on new teaching strategies. She also helps coach the students through step-by-step reading instruction designed to target each students individual knowledge and needs.

“We’re doing everything we can to truly make sure no child can get left behind here at Lindbergh,” Raznik said.