AHS Fails to Meet Standards, Designated PI School

News Editor

As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, the federal government set Average Yearly Progress (AYP) standards that all schools are required to meet. AYP scores are determined by the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), which is administered to sophomores in February. If a school does not meet its AYP standards for two years, it is designated as a Program Improvement (PI) school.
A certain percentage of sophomores per subgroup need to score 380 out of 450 (Proficient) on the CAHSEE in order to meet AYP standards. Subgroups are based on ethnicity, English learners, economic status and Students with Disabilities.
In AHS’ case, the students with disabilities subgroup failed to meet the English Language Arts (ELA) target in 2008. In 2009, AHS successfully met its AYP. However, in 2010, Hispanic students and English Learners did not meet the ELA and Mathematics requirements.
Now that AHS has failed to meet its AYP for two years, it is classified as a PI school.
“I don’t think it’s fair that our AYP is based on only one test that we take in tenth grade. Not everyone takes it seriously,” said junior Ted Lin.
Normally, students would have the option of transferring to a non-Program Improvement school elsewhere in the district. However, Mark Keppel and San Gabriel have also been classified as PI schools.
Therefore, students had the option of transferring to South Pasadena High School by Sept. 10.
As a PI school, AHS must take certain steps to improve its AYP scores. In the first year, the district must use at least five percent of the budget on professional development for teachers.
If the AYP is not met this year or in the years following, increasingly stringent measures will be taken to improve the school’s performance, including replacing the entire staff, converting into a charter school and state takeover.
However, Principal Brad Walsh remains optimistic.
“[The administrators] visited a good majority of classes [on Oct. 8th.] Everyone was impressed,” said Walsh.
There are also two ways to be reclassified as a regular school; both are determined by CAHSEE scores. For ELA, subgroups must have at least 66.7 percent proficiency; for Mathematics, 66.1 percent proficiency is required.
The other method is called “safe harbor,” which involves decreasing the amount of non-proficient students by ten percent.
“Students are extremely capable. We’re only a PI school because they don’t take the CAHSEE seriously, [but] my sophomores this year are motivated; they can help get us to safe harbor,” said English teacher Kristin Keenan.
If AHS does meet its AYP this year, it will “freeze” and no further changes will be implemented. After that, the school must meet its AYP for another year, and then it will return to being a non-PI school.
“Most people are happy to be here. I hope everyone takes the attitude that we’re too good to let this happen to us,” said Walsh.