Pleasanton school board members learned Tuesday night that the district has been placed into program improvement status because math scores haven't improved enough to meet federal standards known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
"We knew that we were going to have to focus on mathematics, so that's what we're doing," said Odie Douglas, assistant superintendent of Educational Services.
The district is above the 90% graduation rate required under federal standards with graduation rates of 97.78% at Amador Valley High, 97.61% at Foothill High and 95.65% at Village. But the district fell short in graduation rates for students with disabilities. Pleasanton had an AYP target graduation rate of 85.98% for students with disabilities in 2012, but only hit 79.26 %.
"We made 33 out of 36 criteria for AYP," said Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi, who said math scores and graduation rates for special education students were the problem areas. "We made growth, a lot of growth, but we didn't make the targeted rate."
Program improvement status means the district must implement specific federal and state requirements, which can vary from district to district and from school to school.
The district did see big jumps in scores of nearly every subgroup, however. API scores climbed by 113 points for socio-economically disadvantaged students at Donlon Elementary, for example. Socio-economically disadvantaged students posted gains at every elementary school.
Scores for English language learners climbed at nearly every school, with Valley View Elementary's score going up 50 points. Valley View is one of two schools in the district that was put on the federal program improvement list last year. Pleasanton Middle School, the district's other program improvement school, saw its API score jump 97 points.
Students with disabilities also saw big gains, with jumps of 40 points or more at Lydiksen Elementary, Pleasanton Middle, Amador Valley and Village, although Village, as a small school, generally doesn't have enough students taking tests to be statistically significant in testing.
Among the other high-performing schools that don't meet No Child Left Behind guidelines are districts in the San Ramon Valley, in Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Fremont and Livermore. More schools are expected to join the list as requirements to meet the federal AYP standards continue to rise.
Those standards are going up every year, until No Child Left Behind is fully implemented in the 2013-14 school year, when all students must be "proficient or advanced" in every test. It takes two years of not meeting federal standards for a school or district to be placed on program improvement and two years to get out of it.
Despite the stigma of being placed into program improvement and a recent backlash against it, Ahmadi said No Child Left Behind is a good thing because it forced schools to look at how to teach students that once fell through the cracks.
"When you have the right program, every one of our students has proven they can do this. They can learn if you have the resources, if you have the programs," she said. "I look at program improvement as an opportunity to serve our kids."
The district has been so successful in increasing scores that some board members joked about inviting Tom Torlakson, the state's superintendent of public instruction, to visit and see how it can be done.