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NCLB Outrages

RLMS weighs options

95% of the students in this school are eligible for free and reduced lunch. How might it help student achievement to offer benefits to the families?

By Julie Finley

NATCHEZ â For four years Robert Lewis Middle School has teetered on the brink of the No Child Left Behind cliff.

Academically, the school isnât where the government says it should be, and now they are facing drastic options.

Unless test results are above the NCLB minimums this year and next â something that hasnât ever happened at RLMS â the school board will be forced to restructure the school.

The board must choose between five options:

  • Reopening the school as a charter school

  • Replacing all or most of the staff

  • Entering into a contract with a private company to operate the school

  • Turning over RLMS to the Mississippi Department of Education

  • Implementing other reforms approved by the state

  • Assistant Superintendent Larry Little said the final decision wonât come until after results from spring tests come back in early summer. But the process has already begun.

    âWhat we are required to do this year is to notify the parents of students who will be at Robert Lewis Middle School next year, go over with them what NCLB says, why we are where we are and what those options are,â Little said.

    The district will have a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Steckler Multipurpose Building behind Natchez High School to share the news with parents and community members.

    Letters have been mailed to the parents of all district sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to notify them of the meeting. The general public is also asked to attend.

    Little said he didnât know what kind of crowd to expect Tuesday.

    âWe have to let them know what the law says,â Little said. âThen tell them they can provide any input they have.â

    RLMS is currently in their third year under the NCLB behind label âschool improvement.â

    But how they got there has been a steady source of frustration for district administrators, Little said.

    In 2002-2003 the school was warned by the government because it failed to meet the required adequate yearly progress. AYP is a formula that includes the test performance of nine subgroups of students. The subgroups are: all students, students with disabilities, limited English proficient students, economically advantaged students, Asian students, Black students, Hispanic students, Native American students and white students.

    If there are not 40 students in a subgroup, that group doesnât count toward overall AYP.

    In 2002-2003 â the first year of NCLB measurements â RLMS only tested 94 percent of its white students in reading/language. In order to meet the required progress, 95 percent of each subgroup must be tested in each category.

    That year only 93 percent of the white subgroup took the test in math.

    In 2003-2004, RLMS dropped into school improvement because another subgroup failed to test 95 percent of its students.

    In 2004-2005 â the first year the school had to provide extra educational services, such as tutoring, as a result of previous scores â yet another subgroup failed to make progress.

    In 2005-2006, the district used incentives to ensure that every student enrolled showed up on test day. They had a 98 percent participation rate in testing, but still failed to meet other requirements of AYP.

    âEach year there has been a different reason why they have not made it,â Little said.

    Now, the students at RLMS must make AYP for two consecutive years to be on safe ground.

    — Julie Finley
    The Natchez Democrat


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