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Roosevelt needing bigger gains

Middle school has improved math and English scores, but federal standards require more.

August 24, 2010|By Max Zimbert, max.zimbert@latimes.com

GLENDALE — Many eyes within Glendale Unified are on Roosevelt Middle School, which has made considerable growth on key accountability exams while still lagging behind the district's other campuses.

According to standardized test data released Monday, Roosevelt students outpaced Glendale Unified growth in math and English scores by 6.5% and 6%, respectively. But even with those gains, the students at Roosevelt remain behind in proficiency rates.

The school district averages 66.7% student proficiency in English and 63.4% in math. At Roosevelt, those rates are at 54.4% for English and 57.4% in mathematics.

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Still, the school's recent jumps in English and math scores were a cause to celebrate, said Lynn Marso, the school's principal.

"It's a start for us to really make forward movement and keep growing," she said. "Continuing to make growth forward is what the focus has to be on. That's what we're showing right now at this moment."

The school continues year-to-year improvement on the California Standards Test, which is designed to gauge student's grade-level abilities. But federal law is what determines whether a school is in Program Improvement, a designation for schools that do not meet federal targets.

Last year was Roosevelt's first year in Program Improvement, and data scheduled to be released Sept. 9 could either continue the curriculum and staff reform process, or mark the first of the two-year process to shed the status.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act is a zero-sum game — schools either reach the goal of 56% proficiency in English language arts in the 2009-10 school year, and 100% proficiency by 2014, or they don't and are dinged.

"It's just unrealistic," Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said. "Yes, we are concerned the school's identified as a Program Improvement school; however, we're extremely confident that the school's making tremendous progress … As long as they are making progress, we will be happy with their performance as a district."

Roosevelt was put under Program Improvement when it didn't meet federal standards for three consecutive years. Last year, its Latino students — nearly half the student population at the campus — missed their growth targets, causing the school to miss its federal benchmark.

But Latino students still registered some improvements. This past year, 48% of Latino eighth graders were proficient in English, up from 31% the year before, according to the California Department of Education. But among sixth-graders, proficiency slipped 1%.

School staff works with students individually as part of a campaign to help all students set academic and personal goals. It's a trick that's paying off, said Mary La Masa, administrator of the district's assessment and evaluation division.

"This is really a team effort, principal, staff and all the other site employees — and even the kids," she said. "It's a pride thing; they want to grow, they want to improve."

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