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RHS performs consistently in era of No Child Left Behind

Nov 13, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Since the No Child Left Behind Act became law in 2001, Riverton High School has been relatively consistent in its achievement of federal Adequate Yearly Progress goals. RHS officials said they were one student short of the AYP graduation requirement two years ago, but otherwise the school has met its yearly NCLB goals, which are meant to bring all students to proficiency in language arts and math by 2014.

Despite the success, principal JoAnne Flanagan said it has been difficult to watch her colleagues throughout the district struggle to meet AYP standards.

Ashgrove and Rendezvous elementary schools reportedly failed to meet AYP for the first time last year, and Aspen Park Elementary School was included in the school improvement list for five years until 2012, when Aspen Park students reached AYP standards for their school.

"We know how hard they're working, (and) we see the difference they're making," Flanagan said, adding that local teachers also make gains in areas "that aren't even measured by AYP."

The annual test emphasizes reading and math, but Flanagan said public school instructors also help students develop as human beings through art classes and counseling sessions, for example.

"Our goal is overall success in the real world, and while academics is certainly key to that, it's not the only consideration," Flanagan said. "If you can knock the socks off the (tests) in math and reading, but you can't get along with anybody, you're probably not going to be that successful."

NCLB pros and cons

Flanagan said the NCLB goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 is unrealistic when considering the array of students to come to school every day with a unique set of needs.

"It's a factory model, and we're not factories," Flanagan said. "In theory it was a fantastic move, but to operationalize it is a whole different ball game. ... Too many variables enter into a child's education that the school has no control over."

Regardless, she said benefits have resulted from the implementation of NCLB.

"A lot of processes we put in place to deal with the expectations have been really good," Flanagan said. "I think it's forced a climate of collegiality in schools that didn't exist before. Teachers work collaboratively now, which didn't used to be the case."

She also likes the concept of annual progress for each student.

"I think that's a legitimate expectation," Flanagan said. "We're going to continue to do what we can to make kids overall as successful as possible."

PAWS performance

Flanagan shared statistics that show RHS student progress during the past four years. In 2012, her student's scores on the Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students test showed improvement, with 85 percent of students proficient in reading, 76 percent proficient in math and 60 percent proficient in science.

The results were up from 2011, when 68 percent of students were proficient in reading, 67 percent were proficient in math and 53 percent were proficient in science.

"You hope it's always moving upward, which we have been," Flanagan said. "We're always looking at those pieces we feel like the data is telling us we need to work on."

Flanagan said staff members have made internal changes, modifying schedules and programs to provide more interventions and enrichment opportunities for students who may need extra help meeting standards. Teachers also have tried to generate a sense of academic competition at RHS.

"The thing (students) respond to best is the comparison between us and other schools," Flanagan said. "They love it when we come out ahead of Lander, just like when we beat them in a football game."

In 2012, Riverton "beat" Lander in every PAWS category other than reading, a subject in which 89 percent of Lander students were proficient.

Statewide, Riverton saw the third-highest scores overall -- and the highest of any Class 4-A high school -- while Lander ranked fifth in Wyoming. Jackson Hole was first, Star Valley was second and Laramie was fourth.

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