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NCLB Outrages

49 Cincinnati Schools Fail U. S. Tests

Forty-nine of 82 Cincinnati Public Schools have failed to meet federal requirements for student achievement for two of three years, preliminary results show.

Many of those will have to offer tutoring or other special help to thousands of students this fall.

Some of the schools will also have to offer parents the option to transfer their kids into a school that has met the goals, and the district will have to pay to bus them.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to meet passing rates on state tests and reach certain rates for attendance and graduation.

If they don't, schools suffer sanctions, such as being required to allow students to transfer or to offer students tutoring services.

The law is now in its third year, and schools are under increasing pressure to make improvements in academic achievement or risk even tougher sanctions, such as being taken over by the state education department or being turned into a charter school.

Still, district officials are encouraged by the results, noting that more schools met the requirements this year than last. (Many schools were not rated last year.)

"We're delighted that more of our schools are (meeting their goals) under No Child Left Behind," said Janet Walsh, the district's spokeswoman. "In fact, we've more than doubled the number. That reflects the overall trend of improvement we are seeing on our state report cards."

The state of Ohio expects to release results for other districts Aug. 24.

President Bush signed the act in Hamilton in 2002.

Some educators have since criticized the legislation. They say the federal government did not provide adequate funding to meet the law's demands, and it unfairly penalizes some schools.

The district must set aside about $2.4 million to pay for the bill's requirements, but officials don't know if they'll spend that much, said district Treasurer Michael Geoghegan.

That's in part because they don't know how many students will ask for the transfers or the tutoring services, Walsh said.

Cincinnati Public Schools officials say they are working to meet the law's requirement to have every child succeed. But, they say, goals are tougher to achieve here because more students live in poverty.

Schools also are expected to meet achievement goals for all students, including individual subgroups, such as Asian- and African-American students and poor students.

"We want to meet the needs of all children," said district Assistant Superintendent Mary Ronan. "But statistically, the chances of schools slipping are greatly increased the more diversity and subgroups they have."

In Cincinnati, preliminary results show that 49 of 82 elementary and high schools did not meet student achievement goals at least two of the last three years, as required by the law.

The goals for last year were:

40.5 percent of fourth-graders passing reading and 35.9 percent passing math.

36 percent of sixth-graders passing reading and 36.8 percent passing math.

66.2 percent passing the reading portion Ohio Graduation Test and 52 percent passing math.

73.6 percent graduation rate or improvement from the year before.

93 percent attendance rate or improvement from the year before.

The goals are expected to become tougher in following years.

Of the 49 schools, eight are under appeal with the state for a variety of reasons. One school has closed and four of the schools have consolidated into two. At least one school is appealing its rating after missing its goals because one student didn't take the tests.

Cincinnati school officials said they are encouraged that nine of the schools that previously were labeled under-performing met their goals.

If they continue to improve this year, those nine schools will shed their label because they have to meet the goals two of three years.

The results could change by Aug. 24, when the state reveals the final list.

The district will offer extra services to the under-performing schools, such as curriculum and instruction planning help by school support teams, and training by instructional coaches.

In Cincinnati, 34 elementary schools that didn't meet the goals two of the three years will have to offer the option for students to transfer to a better-performing school this fall. That includes four schools that have consolidated into two.

High schools don't suffer the sanctions. And in Cincinnati, the transfer option would not apply for high school-age students because they can apply to go to any high school in the district.

Parents to be notified

Parents will be notified of the option to transfer by letter before the first day of school, Aug. 25.

In addition to offering the transfers, the district also must offer tutoring services this year to students in 23 of the under-performing schools.

Sanctions are even more stringent for 14 schools. Some of those have to change key staff, develop and implement a new curriculum or other options.

Parents will also be notified of the opportunity for free tutoring. Priority for the tutoring goes to lowest-achieving and poorest students.

In the past two years, few parents actually transferred their kids from under-performing schools. Only 55 kids transferred, out of several thousand who had that option.

Transfer to catch up

Avondale resident Luwana Pettus-Oglesby had two children last year in Rockdale Academy, one of the schools listed as under-performing. She is transferring her children out of that school but not because of the federal label.

She uses the words "dynamite" and "outstanding" when describing some of Rockdale's programs, and she called the staff and principal "wonderful."

"Rockdale's biggest problem is transitioning students," she said, referring to the high rate of students who move in and out of the school. "They may be in there, and just when they're getting on the ball, they leave and new kids come in."

Pettus-Oglesby is transferring her kids to Lafayette Bloom Back on Track Accelerated Middle School, which offers a program to help kids catch up with their coursework if they have fallen behind one or more grades.

Bloom is also labeled as under-performing, but Pettus-Oglesby said she believes in the program.

E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com.

— Jennifer Mrozowski
Cincinnati Enquirer


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