More local schools miss federal targets | VailDaily.com

More local schools miss federal targets

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EAGLE COUNTY ” Eagle County’s schools took a step backward in meeting federal targets last year.

The federal standards got tougher for the 2004-05 school year. Perhaps as a result, four local schools ” Eagle Valley High School, Battle Mountain High School, Avon Elementary School and Berry Creek Middle School ” missed the targets set by the federal “No Child Left Behind” law.

Eagle Valley High and Minturn Middle School missed their federal targets last year.

Because those two schools missed for the 2003-04 school year, the district as a whole missed its federal targets. It missed again this year, but that doesn’t mean the state will step in.

The reason is that over the last two years, only one district school that receives federal “Title I” money ” Avon Elementary ” has failed to meet its targets. The state steps in only if schools that get federal money miss their targets two years straight.

None of the district’s middle or high schools get federal money. That’s probably good need news at Eagle Valley High School, which has missed its federal targets three years running.

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While the school continues to struggle, Principal Mark Strakbein said the students are getting closer. “We’re better than we were three years ago,” Strakbein said. “We’re very excited about how we tested all our kids.”

The feds require 95 percent of students to take the state tests. At Eagle Valley virtually every student was tested.

“But we need to keep working,” Strakbein said. “We’re going to make it next year.”

While there’s progress at Eagle Valley, Battle Mountain High School took a step backward last year. That school missed all but one of its federal targets.

“We had three principals last year at Battle Mountain. We didn’t do a very nice job of keeping everybody focused,” said District Curriculum Director Mike Gass, who spent a few weeks running Battle Mountain last year after the sudden resignation of former Principal Mark Bullock.

Besides leadership, Gass said the “achievement gap” that plagues many state schools hits hard at Battle Mountain, too.

The “achievement gap” is primarily between white and minority students, with the white students generally performing better in almost all areas in which kids are tested.

In Eagle County, almost all the minority students are Hispanic. Many are immigrants who don’t speak English well, and they’re tested in English.

Another factor is kids moving into and out of schools during the school year. Based on results from the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests ” which are used for the federal targets ” kids who stay at the same school for more than a year do better on their tests.

But in Eagle County, more than 40 percent of all students will move or change schools during the school year.

While the goal of the federal standards is to compare test results for the same kids as they move through school, to a large extent that doesn’t happen in Eagle County.

“It’s not a kid-to-kid comparison,” Gass said. “We may not be looking at the same kids from year to year.”

And those kids aren’t getting the time in class they need. “There’s no substitute for time in education,” Gass said.

While the local district isn’t yet looking at the prospect of a state-imposed “improvement plan,” Gass said principals and teachers know they’re facing a big job.

“We’ve got to do a better job of getting kids prepared,” he said. “We’re very hard on ourselves. When we don’t make these targets, it’s a big deal.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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