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NCLB Outrages

In Forth Worth, Few Transferring from "Failing" Schools

Ohanian Comment: Look at the categories in which the schools are "failing," and you see why parents might well consider the schools satisfactory.

FORT WORTH - At least 139 students have transferred out of the nine Fort Worth district schools that failed to meet the federal No Child Left Behind benchmarks for the second year in a row.

The number of students requesting transfers represents only 1.5 percent of eligible students.

Only Title 1 schools, which serve a higher number of economically disadvantaged students, face sanctions under No Child Left Behind.

Parents, students and educators are still trying to understand and deal with the intricacies of the law.

"To be quite honest, it is an extremely difficult concept for parents to understand," said Cathleen Richardson, principal of North Side High School, which has 30 transfers.

Richardson met individually with almost every parent who transferred his or her child to another school.

"I did my best to explain it in very simple terms," she said.

North Side did not meet the standards in five areas, most of which were participation rates by subgroups on the math exam.

Still, parents "thought it was performance. They thought our kids weren't being successful in all areas," she said.

Under No Child Left Behind, students from various subgroups -- special education, economically disadvantaged, limited-English-speaking and ethnic groups -- must meet certain standards in reading and math. Most students take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, but certain groups -- such as special-education and English-language learners -- can take alternative tests.

At least 47 percent of students from each subgroup must pass the reading exam and a third must pass the math exam. Also, 95 percent of the enrolled students must participate in the exams to meet the participation requirement.

Each of the schools that offered transfers -- Carter-Riverside, Diamond Hill-Jarvis, North Side and Polytechnic high schools and Forest Oak, Meacham, Meadowbrook, Stripling and Dunbar middle schools -- held parent-information meetings in English and Spanish throughout October. Parents of students at the nine schools had until Nov. 1 to request a transfer.

Students were given the option to transfer to one of two other public schools.

Most of Fort Worth's high schools failed to meet the federal standard because students with limited English proficiency failed the math test. Most of the middle schools were deemed failing because of the scores and participation rates of special-education students.

Manuel Cantu, principal of Meacham Middle School, said that although his auditorium was nearly three-fourths full for the parent-information meeting, "I think it was still kind of ineffective as far as what they understood."

There were 29 students who transferred from Meacham.

Yolanda Eidson, whose daughter attends Meacham, kept her daughter at the school. "We're doing fine. It's not the teachers. It's not the kids. It's just the way the government has to do it."

Meacham did not meet the standards because of the participation rate of limited-English-proficiency students on the math test. About 94 percent of Meacham's 800 students are Hispanic. The school also has a language center, which means it is a hub for students who speak limited English.

The special-education and limited-English-proficiency students are particularly vulnerable in how they are assessed under No Child Left Behind, since many of them take an alternative to the TAKS.

School officials have had to reassure parents that, despite the sanctions, their children are getting a good education, said Pat Linares, Fort Worth deputy superintendent for school management and instruction.

If a school fails for three straight years, students must be offered private tutoring. After that, a school faces staff or curriculum replacements and a possible state takeover.

The Texas Education Agency released a list of 199 failing schools across the state in late September. Schools had two days to send out letters informing parents of the transfer option.

All schools will receive a confidential report on how they performed under No Child Left Behind on Monday. Final reports on all schools will be released to the public in February.


Student transfers

The number of students who transferred from Fort Worth schools because the schools failed to meet the federal No Child Left Behind benchmark for a second consecutive year:

High schools

Carter-Riverside: none

Diamond Hill-Jarvis: 13

North Side: 30

Polytechnic: 29

Middle schools

Forest Oak: 12

Meacham: 29

Meadowbrook: 10

Stripling: 13

Dunbar: 3

Total: 139

Why they failed

Most of Fort Worth's schools failed to meet one or several of the subgroups required under No Child Left Behind. Here's where they failed:

High schools

Carter-Riverside: Hispanic and limited-English-proficiency students -- math performance

Diamond Hill-Jarvis: limited-English-proficiency students -- math performance

North Side: limited-English-proficiency students -- math performance; all, Hispanic, limited-English-proficiency and economically disadvantaged students -- math participation

Polytechnic: limited-English-proficiency, African-American and economically disadvantaged students -- math performance

Middle schools

Forest Oak: special-education students -- reading performance

Meacham: limited-English-proficiency students -- math participation

Meadowbrook: special-education students -- reading and math participation and reading and math performance

Stripling: special-education students -- math performance

Dunbar: special-education students -- reading and math performance

SOURCE: Fort Worth school district

— Cynthia L. Garza


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