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Letter: A Focus on Indian River Scores

To the Editor:

There are some facts relating to the Department of Education’s designation of “focus schools” that were not reported in Valley News articles published in September. Under the terms of the No Child Left Behind waiver, the state had to create its own criteria and system for determining schools that were in need of improvement. After some consideration, it chose to run a very complex gap analysis of the most recent NECAP testing scores. The gap chosen as the target was the one between the achievement of “regular” education students and that of “special education” students.

As a member of the Indian River School team attending the two-day state conference and subsequent summer meetings, I have examined our “gap” and noted some interesting facts. In the fall 2012 testing, 92 percent of Indian River School’s regular-education students achieved proficient or proficient-with-distinction status. By comparison, 67 percent of special-education students achieved the proficient or proficient-with-distinction level. Indian River has a rather large special-education population: 15 percent of the students have formal individual education plans, and another 10 percent have 504-plans with varying accommodations. Therefore, it’s important to remember that 25 percent of the school’s population is receiving some type of special-education intervention when considering the 25 point gap between the percentage of regular-education students achieving proficient or higher status and the percentage of special-education students scoring at that level. In addition, the majority of the special-education students make a measurable year of progress at their own ability level each year.

To address the gap, Indian River School has a new TASC period in the daily schedule, which provides another opportunity to address individual needs of students. At the end of the day, every staff member at Indian River knows that they have done everything within their ability and allotted time to see that all students have every opportunity to succeed, whatever their status. I do not have access to the data of the other area schools that are also focus schools, but I would suspect that they share the same commitment and goals.

Holly Howes

Media Specialist, Indian River School