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NCLB Outrages

District taking steps to boost student performance

East side, West Side, all around the country the story's the same.

By Marie Mischel

The specter of state interference looms over Burley's junior high and high schools.

For the past five years, the two schools haven't met the standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind education program for students in the economically disadvantaged and Hispanic populations.

If the schools don't meet the standards next year, they'll face restructuring.

Superintendent Mike Chesley has one word to describe the restructuring options: Ugly.

The options are: replacing all or most of the schools' staff, contracting with a private management company to operate the schools, having the state take over the schools' operations, reopening the schools as charter schools or some other reconfiguration of the schools' governance.

To avoid choosing among these options, the Board of Trustees last week approved a plan that calls for increasing both the district's performance on statewide assessments and the graduation rate.

“Our major goal is to improve the academic performance of all Cassia County students,” Chesley said.

The plan emphasizes additional small-group or individual instruction for students who need additional help. Curriculum for this plan has already been introduced into the schools.

The math program, which began this year, is already showing promising results. And reading scores have improved up to 90 percent in the three years since the new curriculum was introduced, Chesley said.

He credits the teachers for this success.

“They spend extra time preparing the lessons, learning how to use the new curriculum and spend time on the phone talking with parents about individual students,” Chesley said.

For students who must make up class credits to graduate, the district will expand its after-school individual study computer laboratory and hire a teacher to staff it.

The improvement plan, crafted by a committee comprised of administrators, teachers and other education specialists in the district, has allowed the district to apply for two grants for federal money that's administered through the state.

Jodie Mills, Cassia Joint School District's technical and data coordinator, told the board the grants would allow the district to help not only Burley Junior High and High School, but several other schools that are in danger of not meeting their No Child Left Behind goals.

The grants would help pay for the teacher in the credit recovery computer lab, construction of the lab and teachers' professional development.

— Marie Mischel
South Idaho Press


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