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NCLB Outrages

Clock ticks for schools

Local educators are working against the clock trying to figure out how to reach their most at-risk students before the state imposes penalties for failing to do so.

Federal legislation under the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools that receive Title I money to meet state achievement targets and maintain stable attendance and graduation rates. If a school falls short for two consecutive years, the state puts it on “School Improvement Status,” and it faces consequences that become more severe each year it remains on the list.

Title I schools are those that receive additional federal money because a large number of their students come from low-income families.

This year, districts across the state saw more of their schools land on the list and others fail to get off. Getting off the list has become increasingly difficult as the state tests more students and raises achievement targets. That has some educators making radical changes in the way they teach.

“If what we have done in the past hasn’t been working, then why not step out and do something boldly?” asked Chelsea Stalling, a spokeswoman with Gary Community Schools, which is closing five elementary schools, requiring school uniforms and opening separate male and female academies next fall. “The law is not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Other options include removing principals and adding additional administrative positions, closing schools and reopening them as charter or magnet schools, and contracting with private companies to run schools.

Recently, Fort Wayne Community Schools officials announced they would seek the board’s approval to close Geyer Middle School and reopen it as a magnet school in fall 2006. Next year Geyer would enter its third year of having to show improvement or face sanctions. If the board does approve and Geyer becomes a magnet school, it would most likely shed its Title I status and be taken off the school-improvement list.

Consistently low test scores and a lack of time to correct Geyer’s problems prompted the move, said FWCS superintendent Wendy Robinson.

If Geyer remained a Title I school, it would have two years to meet state achievement goals before entering its fifth year on the list, when the harshest penalties are levied.

Possible penalties include the state taking over, replacing the principal and staff, reopening as a charter, or hiring a private management company to run the school.

By reopening Geyer as a magnet school, FWCS would dodge any such recourse.

“The students at Geyer are our responsibility,” Robinson said. “They are not the state’s kids, they are our kids.”

Geyer became a Title I school in 2000, when the number of its students receiving free and reduced-price lunches reached 75 percent. Shortly after, President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind act, which holds schools accountable for student achievement, leaving Geyer with little time to boost test scores.

“It is a no-win situation for Geyer,” Robinson said. “They could not run fast enough.”

The district’s problems extend beyond Geyer, though. Earlier this month, the state tagged Bloomingdale and Fairfield elementary schools as failing to meet its targets as Title I schools for the second consecutive year, putting them on the school-improvement list.

Four other Title I schools also failed to meet their targets, drawing a warning from the state. Only two of the district’s 10 Title I schools made adequate gains, the fewest in the four years of No Child Left Behind.

Village Elementary in East Allen County Schools was the only other local Title I school to fall short of its targets, putting it into Year 3 of school improvement.

That means the district will be forced to take corrective actions that could include replacing school staff, creating new curriculum, extending the school day or year, or reorganizing the school.

District officials haven’t had time to decide what to do, said Brad Bakle, EACS director of assessment, but he said the district won’t take drastic actions such as those being considered at Geyer, at least right away.

“We have to look at a school and not wait for the worst-case scenario to arrive,” Bakle said. “We are being proactive, but we are waiting to see whether the action we took is going to have a positive impact.”
How it works

The No Child Left Behind law requires students to take state tests in reading and math and meet achievement targets set by the state. Title I schools that receive federal dollars because of a large low-income student population must meet those targets each year.
If the schools fail . . .

If they fail to reach the goals, the first year they are flagged by the state and warned to improve. If they miss their goals for two consecutive years, they are placed on School Improvement Status, which carries sanctions.

What sanctions mean for schools . . .

Year 1: School must allow students to transfer to a better- performing school in the district. No less than 10 percent of Title I funds must go toward professional development.

Year 2: School must provide students from low-income families with supplemental services such as tutoring.

Year 3: School must take at least one corrective action that can include replacing staff, changing curriculum, extending school day or school year, reorganizing the school internally or appointing outside experts to advise the school.

Year 4: The school must develop a restructuring plan to reopen as a charter school, replace principal and staff, or contract with a private management company, or the state takes over.

Year 5: The school must implement the restructuring plan.
Having sanctions removed . . .

To have a school’s status changed, it must meet achievement targets for two consecutive years.

♦ To see local and state schools’ status, go to Page 3A.
Local Title I schools and their school improvement status


sdooley@news-sentinel.com

Fort Wayne Community Schools

Schools meeting state targets

Adams Elementary

Washington Elementary

Schools flagged by the state

Abbett Elementary

Nebraska Elementary

Scott Elementary

South Wayne Elementary

Schools in Year 1 of school improvement

Bloomingdale Elementary

Fairfield Elementary

Study Elementary

Schools in Year 3 of school improvement

Geyer Middle School

East Allen County Schools

Schools meeting state targets

Meadowbrook Elementary

Southwick Elementary **

Schools in Year 3 of school improvement

Village Elementary

Northwest Allen County Schools

Schools meeting state targets

Huntertown Elementary

Arcola Elementary
By the numbers

299: Total Title I school districts and charter schools in Indiana

32: Number of Title I districts and charter schools on School Improvement Status

99: Number of Title I schools in Indiana on School Improvement Status

41: Number of schools in Year 1 of school improvement

22: Number of schools in Year 2 of school improvement

11: Number of schools in Year 3 of school improvement

16: Number of schools in Year 4 of school improvement

9: Number of schools in Year 5 of school improvement

— Sheena Dooley
Fort Wayne News-Sentinel
2005-06-22
http://www.thecitizennews.com/main/archive-050622/in-06_flexibility.html


INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES


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