Special-ed testing leaves high school on watch list | RecordCourier.com

Special-ed testing leaves high school on watch list

by Maggie O'Neill

Douglas High School is a school in need of improvement solely because too few special-education students failed to test in English-language arts.

The category was the single area of 36 where the school failed a second year in a row, and pushed it into the school in need of improvement category.

“Douglas High will be in need of improvement not only this year, but next year,” said Roy Casey, the district’s education services director, at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. “Even if they meet the standard, they have to meet that standard over time.”

The district appealed the designation with the state board of education, but was unsuccessful.

“We need to get about the business of improving education for special-education students,” said Douglas County School District Superintendent John Soderman.

Another area of testing that has district administrators concerned about a possible continuation of the designation at the high school is in math. In 2002-03, special-education students as a group failed to make the math testing standard, putting it on the watch list in that category.

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If Douglas High School students fail in the same category for 2003-04, the high school will have to fight its way from the school in need of improvement status in two areas.

“That’s why Meneley and Scarselli scrambled to do interventions, so they could get off the watch list,” Casey said. “If they didn’t make the standard, then the next year they would be in need of improvement.”

Districtwide, Douglas High School’s designation put the district in need of improvement at the high school level.

“Last year we were on the watch list for elementary schools, we’re not on it anymore,” Casey said. “We’re not on the school in need of improvement for elementary schools (this year), we’re not on it for middle schools. We are on it for high school.”

Soderman said the district should look at the designation as a way to improve.

“The goal of No Child Left Behind and of its sister bill in the state SB1 is to have all students become proficient by the year of 2013 and 2014,” he said.

“When you look at what No Child Left Behind does, it’s No Child Left Behind. It’s not some of the kids left behind some of the time.”

Students that are exceeding against odds are succeeding because school staff members are paying attention and using the data, he said.

In a different area from the special-education categories, Douglas High School far exceeded the standard. Douglas High School graduated 90.33 percent of students, a level surpassing the 50 percent required in Nevada.

“{That’s why our legislators are crying about our low-graduation rate in Nevada,” Casey said.

In addition to making the 50 percent requirement school wide, each ethnic group at the school must pass the standard.

The Hispanic graduation rate in 2001-02 was below 50 percent, a number which would have put the school in need of improvement. The Hispanic graduation rate in 2002-03 was 83 percent.

Fewer African-Americans graduated than in any other group from Douglas High School in 2002-03 with a 66.6 percent graduation rate.

— Maggie O’Neill can be reached at mo’neill@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 214.