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Sunnyside schools among the many not making adequate yearly progress

Parents of Sunnyside students are being informed this week that the schools their children are attending have not made adequate yearly progress as deemed by the state.

All four of the district's elementary schools, its two middle schools and the high school failed to make adequate yearly progress in two categories - reading and math.

Adequate yearly progress (AYP) is determined by three criteria - the percentage of students participating in the WASL, the percentage of students meeting the standards in reading and math, and the unexcused absence rate for grades K-8 or graduation rates for secondary students.

Districts are required to inform parents of options they have if their child's school has not made adequate yearly progress for two or more consecutive years.

"All school districts in the Lower Valley have sent out those letters," Dr. Rick Cole, Sunnyside School District Superintendent, said. "The requirement is if the district is receiving federal funds and are not meeting AYP then we must give parents the options of moving their student to a school that is meeting AYP or offer supplemental educational services."

If there was a public school in Sunnyside meeting the adequate yearly progress criteria then the Sunnyside School District would pay to transport the student there. However, there is not a school in Sunnyside meeting adequate yearly progress standards. The same can be said for all the local school districts.

The only other option parents have, besides finding a school that is meeting its adequate yearly progress and paying for transportation, is to take advantage of Sunnyside School District's offer of free tutoring through the district's supplemental educational services.

The extra help will be provided to students for help in reading, language arts and math. The extra help will be provided before or after school, on weekends, during school vacation times and even during the summer break. The tutoring services will be provided free of charge to the students.

Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Media Relations Manager Nathan Olson said schools that are designated as needing improvement must use a portion of its Title 1 funds to move students to an acceptable school in their district or to provide tutoring.

All students are not eligible for the free tutoring.

"The students must need the tutoring," Cole said.

He added that students who are most at risk will be eligible, students who are performing adequately will not be.

Sunnyside High School students have made improvements in reading and writing. But despite the improvements, the school is still marked as needing improvement in reading.

High school sophomores in Sunnyside dropped nearly seven points from the previous year in math scores, going from 28 percent proficiency in the 2007-08 school year to just 21.5 percent in 2008-09. The statewide proficiency results in math are more than double, sitting at 45.2 percent for the 2008-09 school year.

Cole said the Sunnyside School District is doing very well in improving its overall instruction.

"The difficulty is in math," he said. "That's being experienced statewide."

This has not been lost on newly elected State Superintendent Randy Dorn. He is planning on overhauling the way improvements are measured, something Cole said will change the Sunnyside School District's numbers later in the 2009-10 school year.

All Sunnyside schools are in step two of improvement except for Sunnyside High School, which is in step five.

Because of this, Cole said, the state has taken a closer look at the plan in effect at Sunnyside High School to judge whether it is adequate or not. Cole said the state has judged the plan to be adequate.

But school administrators are going further in their quest to improve test scores. Cole said the Sunnyside School District is part of an OSPI led project to implement radical changes in the district's instructional work to get their students to make the progress needed.

He said 40 staff members recently attended training and will present the plan on the opening day of school.

"We're looking more at the work being done in the classrooms," Cole added.

The new, aggressive plan by OSPI calls for 90 percent of students to be successful. But that figure is one the Sunnyside School Board has its reservations about.

"The school board has been very clear that they want 100 percent of the students to be successful," Cole said.

He also noted of the 296 school districts in the state of Washington, more than half need improvement.

To parents, Cole asks them to be patient.

"If they have concerns they can come into the schools and speak with the principals and their student's teachers about their concerns," Cole said.

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