In Burbank, Washington Elementary shed its Program Improvement status after two consecutive years of student groups hitting their proficiency target on standardized tests.
The Program Improvement designation frees up for more resources and professional development for the troubled campuses. If the schools do not climb out of the designation after three consecutive years, restructuring begins and employees are dismissed.
Fifteen of the district's 16 comprehensive campuses have scores above 800, and parents, teachers and administrators ought to celebrate that achievement, Supt. Stan Carrizosa said.
But he added that the number of students who score at or above grade level, while rising, is critical in the long term.
"We know if [students] are proficient now, we've impacted their quality of living for a lifetime," he said. "These are young people who are going to earn more and contribute more."
But not all student demographics at Luther Burbank Middle School made their target, and the school remains in Program Improvement for its second consecutive year.
In year two of Program Improvement, parents can move their children to other district campuses, and economically disadvantaged students are eligible for private tutoring at the district's expense.
"If they get extra help and they do better as a result, that's great and the spirit of the law," said Jennifer Meglemre, who oversees assessments and evaluations for Burbank Unified. "That's what we're hoping for, [and] if it helps one kid, that's the important part."
Across the state, fewer elementary and middle schools made their federal targets in 2010 than in 2009, O'Connell said, partly attributing the slide to the 11% increase in expectations.
The federal Adequate Yearly Progress is a zero-sum game. School districts and their campuses either hit the proficiency target or they fail. Beginning in 2007, the system has escalating standards that increase by 11% annually until 2014, when all students are expected to be proficient in English and math.