The news from the Adequate Yearly Progress reports was mostly good for the Storey County School District, as all of the district's four schools met the standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Virginia City High School students showed the most dramatic improvement, from being judged adequate in 2007 to exemplary in 2008.
"Obviously we feel very good about this," Superintendent Rob Slaby said.
Districtwide, all schools made AYP and were judged adequate.
Virginia City Middle School held onto its High Achieving ranking, the same one its students earned in 2007.
Hillside Elementary School in Lockwood maintained its Adequate rating, despite being the county's only Title I school.
Slaby explained that a Title I school qualifies for funds from the Title I program based on the number of students living below the poverty line. That number is drawn from the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Title I schools receive additional federal funds for reading based on income levels of the students at the school.
The only school to have a lower ranking was Hugh Gallagher Elementary School, which dropped from High Achieving to Adequate, still a positive under the NCLB law.
Slaby said that happened only because of a testing glitch.
"They gave the test and had a delay in finishing the test," he said. "That's why they lost their status. That's an irregularity which isn't real bad."
The top ranking is Exemplary, followed by High Achieving and then Adequate, Slaby said. Then there is Watch, which means a school scored poorly in one area, but adequately in others. The lowest is Needs Improvement, of which there are four levels.
Slaby held a dim view of the methods to rank students as a matter of principle, because studies showed that schools with many children who live in poverty or who are not proficient in English are more likely not to make AYP.
He said he has been part of a research team in the past that showed a clear correlation between poverty and English-speaking ability and test scores.
He said in a small district a rise or drop in one child's proficiency can knock the school into a higher or lower category.
"It's a glitch in statistics," he said. "This country is obsessed with a score mentality. The worst thing you can do to a child is rate him 7, 10, 28 or whatever."
He said everyone learns differently and different students faced different challenges
Also, he said the tests only measure English and math proficiency, and while those are important, so are art or music.
"That's one of the things that makes our country great, people who can do those things," he said. "Reading and math are extremely important but so are the others."
In the future, the district plans to focus on improving students' writing ability.
"The biggest area of concern has been writing, and there's a lot of research that the better you write, that makes you a better reader," he said. "We're going to spend more time on writing. The middle school will go online writing and get an instantaneous score back."
- Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 881-7351.