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

Saturday, August 18, 2007

From "Distinction in Performance" to Failure in One Year

From The Kansas City Star:

The West Platte School District breathed a sigh of relief that it did not land on the “needs improvement” list but said it’s just a matter of time.

Missouri’s Department of Education this week released a list of about 250 school districts that did not meet adequate yearly progress on their Missouri Assessment Program scores and have landed on the “needs improvement” list.

In the Northland, these districts are: Platte County R-3, Kearney R-I, Smithville R-II, Lawson R-XIV, Excelsior Springs and North Kansas City.

The federal mandate No Child Left Behind was designed to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their counterparts by requiring all districts to show adequate yearly progress in the areas of attendance and graduation, proficiency and participation rates. In the area of proficiency, testing benchmarks are set progressively higher each year so that by 2014 all students should be proficient when they are tested.

The “needs improvement” list essentially means that the district did not meet benchmarks for two consecutive years in the same subject area and must now develop an improvement plan. Additionally, the school district must notify all students’ families of its status.

Platte County R-3 Assistant Superintendent Rob Gardner expressed frustration with the federal mandate.

“I think the intent of NCLB is good and is solid,” he said. “But some components just don’t make sense. A small subgroup can make an entire district to be labeled as needing improvement.”

In Platte County R-3, the subgroups of free and reduced lunch, individualized educational program in communication arts and individualized education program in math did not meet benchmarks.

Because roughly half of the state’s school districts fell into the list, Gardner said that’s an indication of how unfair the mandate is.

“It’s not like we’re unaccredited with poor curriculum,” he said. “But by using NCLB standards, we’re being lumped into that group.”

Platte County had been recognized with “distinction in performance” from the state Department of Education in 2006 and 2001-2004.

West Platte Superintendent Kyle Stephenson isn’t happy about NCLB either, even though his district didn’t land on the list.

“At some point, we too will fail,” he said. “It’s blatantly unfair.”

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