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NCLB Outrages

More schools flunk: 544 schools fail to make progress

Rich Gibson Comment:

The only thing to do about high-stakes standardized testing, child abuse,
is to build a base to shut it down, build mass boycotts among parents,
students, and teachers, a base which does not deny the links of the tests,
the needs of imperialism, racism, and war.

The more people who opt out in school districts, the less possible it is to
apply nclb sanctions.

Ask youself, "I wonder where the activists of the Rouge Forum in Michigan are?"

Ohanian Comment: No one is going so solve this problem for communities. Remember: In Montgomery, civil rights advocates refused to ride the bus. In Greensboro, four African American students sat down at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter.

If we had the will, we could shut down the NCLB abuse of children. When are we going to do it?

by Catherine Jun and Christine MacDonald

The number of Michigan schools that failed to meet federal standards rose sharply in 2005-06, according to a state report released Thursday.

The Michigan Department of Education report card showed 544 elementary, middle and high schools failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress, which measures annual improvement in student test scores, participation in testing, attendance and graduation rates. A critical component of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, AYP is based on school districts' progress on benchmarks set by the state.

Last year 436 schools failed to meet the standards, and 297 failed in 2004.

"This is an eye-opener," said Sharif Shakrani, co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University. "We need to do a thorough analysis of where the problems lie and what we need to do about it."

The report showed that 399 of the state's high schools -- about a third -- failed to make adequate progress, a ratio similar to last year. Shakrani said that many of the high schools are not passing enough students in math, reading and English.

"Either the students are not taking the test seriously or they really don't know the material," Shakrani said.

State officials cited three reasons for the increase in failing schools:

# 500,000 more students took the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test in grades 3-8.

# Some schools failed automatically because the federal government rejected some versions of the test administered to special education students.

# All alternative high schools, which generally have lower graduation rates, were tested this year.

Martin Ackley, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said he wasn't "alarmed" by the number of schools that failed, but acknowledged the need for improvement in the high schools. "That's one of the reasons why we pushed for the more rigorous graduation standards," he said.

Schools that fail to meet progress targets face penalities such as having to pay for outside tutoring for students or transporting students to schools that met standards. If a school fails for six or more years, it must replace its principal and other staff, convert to a public charter school or turn the school's operations over to the state or a private company. Penalties apply only if the schools receive federal Title I funding.

The release shows 41 schools have failed for six or more years. Up to 11 schools this year -- most in Detroit and Flint -- will have to revamp their schools.

In Detroit, four schools have failed for eight years, the maximum number of years any school can fail. Those schools have undergone a series of sanctions and the intermediate school district, Wayne County RESA, may intervene.

In Detroit, 102 schools -- nearly half of the district -- failed to meet the federal requirements this year.

Detroit Public Schools spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo said it is unfair to compare the district's results to the previous year, when 62 schools failed.

"There were issues with the dates of the MEAP being rescheduled in the fall versus the winter," said Oguntoyinbo, adding that the district is putting in measures such as transition programs for high school freshmen and reducing class sizes. "These are all things that, over time, will transform the district."

Merrilyn Wilcox, who has two grandsons in Detroit Public Schools, blamed the results on schools being poorly equipped.

"The children are behind because they do not have what they need to have in the buildings," said Wilcox, whose grandsons attend Stephens Elementary and Frederick Douglass College Prep Academy. Both schools failed to make AYP this year.

State officials were encouraged 163 schools that had previously failed to make standards met them for the second consecutive year, which means they face no sanctions.

"It is a tremendous accomplishment for these schools, their staffs and, of course, their students," said state schools Superintendent Michael Flanagan in a statement.

Most of the schools that came off the list are elementary and middle schools, which further indicate high schools are not getting much better, Shakrani said.

Two schools in Inkster -- Baylor Woodson Elementary and Blanchette Middle School -- failed again, despite replacing principals and staff last year.

"We're not going to bemoan what we got," said Superintendent Tom Maridada, adding that the scores were an improvement since the school returned to local control in June 2005.

High-performing schools in Sterling Heights and Birmingham also didn't meet the federal standard, but school officials say it is not because of poor performance.

Seaholm and Groves high schools in Birmingham have high marks in standardized testing and college entrance, but both missed the standard for testing too few students.

Sandra Spencer, assessment coordinator, said many Birmingham parents want their students to focus instead on Advanced Placement tests and the ACT to prepare for college, she said.

In the Utica school district, Eisenhower and Henry Ford II high schools did not meet standards, though about 90 percent of both schools pass the MEAP test and the same percentage continue on to college. Officials attributed the failure to special education students.

— Catherine Jun and Christine MacDonald
/The Detroit News


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