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NCLB Outrages

In Jacksonville, Schools Lose Money as Students Choose to Leave

The legal fine print of the No Child Left Behind Act details what can happen if a public school fails to make what the federal government considers adequate progress each year.

Between the lines is what that can mean for a school in terms of dollars, especially when not meeting the grade provides students the choice to transfer to a better-performing school. In Duval County, it will mean more than $2.3 million in funding will be redirected this year.

About 440 students transferred to other public schools this year under provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, according to figures taken seven days into the school year. Each student who leaves takes $5,268.87 in state and federal funding to the new school.

Sixth-grade math teacher Chassity Jones instructs her students at Lake Shore Middle School yesterday afternoon. She is one of four teachers the school plans to hire as a result of increased enrollment from student transfers. The school expects at least 89 more students this school year.

"The money follows the students," said Steve Bright, Duval County schools' budget director.

There were 550 students who initially applied for transfers. The stipulation applies only to schools that receive federal money for disadvantaged students and in Northeast Florida affects only Duval County schools.

This is the first year any Florida schools have had to worry about transfers under the federal law. Eight Duval County schools, including one charter school, did not meet the federal definition of academic progress, although most of the schools showed improvement this year on the state's measure of improvement.

If a school that receives this type of funding, commonly called Title I money, fails to meet the federal standard for a third consecutive year, the school would also provide to economically disadvantaged students supplemental educational services.

8 schools see decrease in student body rolls

Eugene J. Butler Middle School saw the highest number of students transfer under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Students at eight Duval County schools became eligible for the transfers to better-performing schools because the federal government determined the eight had not made adequate yearly progress for each of the past two years.

Here are the number of students who left each school:

G.W. Carver Elementary: 24

Lola M. Culver Elementary: 15

Rufus E. Payne Elementary: 15

Rutledge Pearson Elementary: 22

West Jacksonville Elementary: 21

Eugene J. Butler Middle: 196

Matthew W. Gilbert Middle: 136

Daniel Payne Academy: 9

Total: 438

Eugene J. Butler Middle School saw the most transfers. The shifting of 196 students will cost the school at least $1 million, which already has been visible through fewer hirings, school officials said. The funding loss meant the school could hire eight fewer teachers and lost a vice principal and several teacher assistant positions this year.

Principal Nongongoma Majova-Seane said she is looking at the positive side of having fewer children, including being able to give more attention to students. The school has been working to overcome some high-profile discipline problems, including the sexual assault of a girl inside a restroom during school hours last year.

"With less students we're going to try to focus on those" who stayed, Majova-Seane said. "The teachers will be able to work with children closer."

Majova-Seane said some students have returned to the school. She said she wants students to return because "as a community, we need to stand together. You have to stick with your family."

Seven miles away, Lake Shore Middle School Principal Iranetta Wright is dealing with the other side: an influx of students, including 89 from Butler.

Lake Shore will have four more teaching positions this year. Wright said she's already hired two of the teachers. Aside from new teachers, the school will split one of its classrooms into two.

"We're going to do whatever we can to make the transition as smooth as possible," Wright said.

At the school system level, officials said they are working to shift teachers from schools that lost students to schools that gained them. Bright said new teachers will start falling into place within the following week. There may still be hiring and letting go of recently hired teachers depending on where the need lies, Bright said. Any decision on that would be made by the School Board.

— Cynthia Garza
Fewer students, money left behind
Jacksonville Time-Union


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