Several elementary schools in Bozeman, as well as the high school, failed to produce test scores required by No Child Left Behind.

But the scores leave plenty of room for debate when it comes to what they say about Bozeman's school system.

In Bozeman, Longfellow and Whittier elementary schools, Chief Joseph and Sacajawea middle schools and Bozeman High School all fell short of reaching "adequate yearly progress," or AYP, according to numbers released by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

Hawthorne, Irving, Emily Dickinson and Hyalite elementary schools all made AYP.

Kirk Miller, superintendent of Bozeman's public schools, said every school in Bozeman saw its student body as a whole surpass the test requirements. However, some schools saw certain "subgroups" - categories of students based things like income level and race -- fall short of the requirements.

Miller said the test results help school staff identify "areas where you can target instruction." But he said the law can be heavy handed when it comes to punishing schools that don't see every subgroup of students meet requirements.

"To characterize anything as a failed system as a result of a very small subgroup that hasn't met criteria but continues to show growth doesn't portray a true picture," he said.

"Creating a sanction for a very small subgroup that actually show improved growth - that's the most onerous (regulation) No Child Left Behind has brought to the table," he said.

When subgroups fail to reach the benchmarks several years in a row, a school and district must rearrange funding and allow parents to transfer their students out of the school.

Miller said parents have not been quick to transfer their students in light of test scores.

"The people of the community really do understand this," he said. "They like the school they are in and they realize the team in the school" is committed to educating the students.

Since No Child Left Behind was signed in to law by President George W. Bush in 2002, it has required an increasing percentage of students at primary and secondary schools to test as "proficient" in reading and math, with an ultimate goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014.

This year in Bozeman, 84 percent of students at a school, as well as that percent of students the "subgroups," had to show proficiency in reading. Sixty-seven percent of students had to test proficient in math.

Schools in Belgrade also had mixed results this year. Heck/Quaw Elementary, Belgrade Midle School, Belgrade Intermediate, and Belgrade High schools did not meet the set requirements. Ridge View Elementary School made AYP.

Belgrade High school Principal Kevin McNelis told the Belgrade News last week that the school will address the issue and target struggling students in an effort to boost scores this year.

Elsewhere in the county, most schools made AYP. Only the seventh- and eighth-grade school in Three Forks and Gallatin Gateway Elementary School did not.

State Superintendent Public Instruction Denise Juneau said in a statement that schools across the state hove shown consistent improvement in tests scores since No Child Left Behind was implemented.

"Students and teachers have been working very hard to improve test scores in reading, math and science," she said. "Their effort is demonstrated by the progress in our overall academic performances statewide."

Daniel Person can be reached at dperson@dailychronicle.com or 582-2665.