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Florida Mom Ignores Fed Invitation to Take Her Kids Out of Local School

Ohanian Comment: Read this article and shout Hosannahs! to this Riviera Beach mom who says, "I wish they would focus on making the public schools better instead of kicking kids around to other schools."

Read the article, too for the clear way it lays out the impossible NCLB statistics. If more people strip away the sales pitch and look at the numbers, this thing should implode.

Florida starting poing for Adequate Yearly Progress in Reading: 38% on grade level.

2004-05: 48% on grade level

2014: 100% on grade level

Anything less, and money will be taken from public school and given to vouchers, private tutoring, etc.

Riviera Beach mom Kimberly Stanley refuses to abandon her struggling school even though the federal government says she can.

Stanley, whose son attends Dr. Mary McCleod Bethune Elementary in Riviera Beach, received a letter last month saying that under the new No Child Left Behind Act she could choose a better-performing public school for her son to attend.

About 4,000 Palm Beach County students are eligible under the act to switch schools this year. Parents have until July 15 to make the decision and notify the school district.

Stanley said it was not a tough choice for her.

She had resisted an even more tempting offer the year before when Bethune received its second F grade from the state, making her son eligible for a voucher to pay for private school tuition. Bethune earned a C grade this year.

"I wish they would focus on making the public schools better instead of kicking kids around to other schools," Stanley said. "They do their best to prepare students at Bethune."

Six district schools, including all of the high schools in the Glades and nearly all of the elementary schools in Riviera Beach, are affected by the No Child Left Behind Act this year.

The schools are West Riviera, Lincoln and Bethune elementaries in Riviera Beach; Glades Central High School in Belle Glade; and Pahokee Middle/Senior High School. Students from West Technical Education Center in Belle Glade, which received its second F grade last month, can either transfer to public schools or use tuition vouchers to attend private schools under Florida's A-Plus accountability plan. West Tech is now closed.

Statewide, 48 former F-graded schools have to offer their students the option to transfer to better public schools. School districts must pay for transportation, and the schools can be in other towns or even other counties.

Local school officials were surprised by the news because many of the schools made big gains on this year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores, jumping in some cases from an F to a C.

But the federal law says students in nine subgroups such as poor students, minority students, children who aren't fluent in English and special education children, must make "adequate yearly progress."

In Riviera Beach, even though the schools jumped from F grades to C's, not all of the subgroups performed to federal standards.

School officials said, a school could be graded A or B under Florida's accountability plan and still not meet federal standards if its subgroups do not all achieve to federal standards.

Under Florida's plan, the starting point to meet adequate yearly progress is 31 percent of students in any given school or subgroup must read proficiently, and 38 percent of students must perform proficiently in math.

By the 2004-05 school year, 48 percent of students must read on grade level to meet progress guidelines, and 53 percent must be on grade level in math.

The standards increase each year until 2014, when all students must be on grade level in math and reading.

The state has not told school districts yet how many other schools, besides the six in Palm Beach County, did not meet federal standards this year.

Schools that don't meet the standards will be put on probation this year. If they fail to meet federal standards next year, they will have to offer students the opportunity to go to other schools regardless of what the school grade is from the state.

"You can imagine how confusing this is for parents," said Joe Orr, a consultant working with the school district on school choice. "On the one hand the state gives you a C or a B; on the other hand the other regulations kick in saying you didn't meet standards."

Right now, Orr is concerned about getting the word out to parents whose children are eligible to transfer. Although first-class letters were sent, parents may have moved without telling the school district.

If a letter comes back undeliverable, school officials will try to call the parent.

— Kimberly Miller
Parents must choose soon on transfers
Palm Beach Post
July 5, 2003


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