"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lawsuits to Block NCLB Sanctions

What is the difference between Warner Elementary School and P.S. 48? Warner Elem.'s school district, Red Clay CSD, has filed a lawsuit to put an end to the assured failure that would otherwise warrant the closure of Warner Elementary, which is now in its 5th year of not making their test targets. I suppose the headline should read, School Sues to Stay Open. The story from Delaware Online News Journal:

The state Department of Education has agreed to change the way it counts the scores of some special-needs students in assessing schools' progress toward federal targets set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The planned policy shift will touch districts statewide, but the most immediate effect should be felt in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, which sued the state in December asking for just such a change.

Among the state's planned changes, two in particular alleviate Red Clay's concerns:

• Allowing school districts the option of having the scores from students attending special-education schools -- which typically draw students from multiple neighborhood schools -- counted under either the special-education school or their assigned neighborhood school. That would let the district count the progress of students in special-needs and neighborhood elementaries separately, likely improving the scores of the latter.

• Allowing districts to use the better of two test scores for federal accountability reporting when dealing with students who score poorly the first time, attend mandated summer school and retake the test at summer's end. Now, only the first score counts, so schools don't get credit for students who progress during the summer.

The changes could help districts avoid the situation Warner Elementary School, in the Red Clay district, faces.

In December, the district filed a suit in Chancery Court asking to overturn a Department of Education regulation that required the scores of 32 students from the Richardson Park Learning Center, a special-education school, to be included in Warner's annual Delaware Student Testing Program scores. Warner is the designated resident school for the Richardson Park students, even though none attends Warner.

Without the Richardson Park scores, district officials said, Warner has increased the number of students meeting or exceeding state standards in reading and math since 2002. That includes a 28.5 percent increase in the number of third-graders passing the reading test and a 26.2 percent increase in third-graders passing math.

Because the scores of the Richardson Park students were included in Warner's assessment, Warner failed to make adequate progress toward targets outlined in No Child Left Behind for the fifth consecutive year in 2005. As a result, the school was faced with sanctions that included developing a restructuring plan that could extend as far as replacing its entire staff or converting to a charter school.

In response to the policy changes, the district agreed last week to a 30-day stay of the lawsuit. Spokeswoman Pati Nash said it likely will be dropped if the changes are approved by the State Board of Education. . . .

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