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No Child Left Behind Act creating 'Fruit Basket Turnover' situation in schools

By nature of the formula, eventually all schools will be labeled "in need of improvement."

By Jessie Burchette

The federal No Child Left Behind Act is quickly becoming the No School Left Untouched Act.

Rowan-Salisbury School officials faced a hard reality Monday night.

"We're running out of choices," said Dr. Judy Grissom, superintendent.

If more schools fail to meet the federal standards and are placed on the improvement list, there will be little or no choices available for parents who want to move their children to a school meeting the federal adequate yearly progress guidelines.

Four of the county's 19 elementary schools are now on the school improvement list —China Grove, Granite Quarry, Hurley and North Rowan.

Depending on reading scores due in October, three more schools could join the improvement list — Isenberg, Rockwell and Knollwood.

With Dole and Landis on the "watch list" two more school could go into the improvement category next year.

Once a school goes on the improvement list, it's there for three years.

Cochran said Tuesday that it's theoretically possible all of the county's 19 elementary schools could be on the improvement list within two or three years.

And there are no guidelines from the feds on what a school system does if that happens. An option could be to allow students a choice of attending schools in adjacent school districts. Cochran said the feds didn't anticipate the situation when the law was enacted.

School officials are dealing with the now and the future simultaneously — offering the school choice mandated by the federal act and working on improvement plans.

Hundreds of letters went out Aug. 7 to parents of children enrolled at China Grove, Granite Quarry, Hurley and North Rowan elementaries. The letters spelled out their options for choice to attend schools that have met the federal standards.

Last year, about 30 parents opted to move their children from a school that failed to meet required standards to a more successful school.

Cochran told school board members they don't know how many parents have exercised the option to change schools. The deadline for returning the forms was Monday.

As of late Tuesday, the tally wasn't complete.

Students are offered options of the nearest schools to simplify the bus transportation.

School officials didn't offer Isenberg, Rockwell or Knollwood as options because of their uncertain status.

With the new school year ready to open next week, officials will have to make quick adjustments in bus routes and possibly classes, depending on the number of students who opt to move.

Cochran said he expects an increase this year.

Once the first round is complete, the school system will likely again have to offer choice to students at Isenberg, Rockwell and Knollwood in October. That's when officials find out if the schools made adequate yearly progress in math.

The prospect of moving students after the school year starts didn't sit well with school officials.

Board Vice Chairman Kay Wright Norman said the only solution is to improve the schools.

Board Chairman Bryce Beard focused on the multitude of subgroups and how the determination of adequate yearly progress is made.

Beard said one or two students in a particular subgroup could move to another school and cause it to fail to meet required progress.

The school a child transfers to may be no better than the one he left.

Cochran agreed. "One student in one subgroup can cause a school not to meet adequate yearly progress."

"That's hard to accept," Cochran added.

Students who qualify for free lunches in the schools that fail to meet progress goals are eligible for tutoring under the Title 1 program

— Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post


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