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Lindbergh wants to lower standards


District asks state to re-evaluate proficiency levels


The Lindbergh Board of Education recently agreed to send a letter to the Missouri Commissioner of Education Kent King asking the state to re-evaluate its pro-ficiency requirements regarding the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Board members voted unanimously last week to send the letter, citing concerns that the state requirement for "proficiency" under the No Child Left Behind Act is set higher than many other states.

National standards dictate that proficient means "at grade-level," which is level three on a scale of five levels, but it is up to each individual state to establish its own standards. Missouri's proficiency level is set at level four, which is "above grade level."

The proficiency level in the state of Missouri was established before the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Lindbergh Superintendent Jim Sandfort, whose administration already has sent a letter to King addressing the issue, advised board members to send their own letter to the state commissioner of education.

"CSD (Cooperating School Districts) has itself sent a letter. So, what they are encouraging all school districts to do, is to have a letter sent from the board to the commissioner," Sandfort told the board.

"And we sent one administratively, and what we would like to do is that the board would consider sending a letter itself on behalf of the district. We were speaking from an operational standpoint, but these are things that need to be realized as a professional staff, but I think it needs to be more of a policy issue, a policy statement ...,'' the superintendent added.

The No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Jan. 7, 2002, now is stretching its long arm over school districts nationwide.

Sandfort said the measure really has placed tremendous pressure on school districts throughout Missouri.

"It's disadvantaging a lot of Missouri schools," Sandfort said. All school districts nationwide must achieve a rate of 100 percent proficiency by 2014, according to the new federal law.

Nancy Rathjen, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Lindbergh School District, said that it would be no small task to achieve this goal.

"It is an enormous bill and the provisions of this bill very much impact elementary and secondary education," Rathjen said. "All of the students that we are educating will have to be proficient in reading and math by 2014 and that is going to be quite a job."

Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, is a subsequent measure of the No Child Left Behind Act that was created to guide districts toward achieving the goal of getting all students to reach the 100 percent level of proficiency. It is a guideline that the district must meet each year to avoid being penalized.

Each state sets its own pattern of progress to reach the proficiency goal. In Missouri it is a "step-ladder" method that bridges the gap slowly each year.

For example, to meet AYP in 2002, school districts in Missouri were required to have a score of 18.4 percent in Communication Arts and 8.3 percent in Math. For 2003 and 2004 the numbers bump up about 3 percent in each category, but by 2005 the requirements take a jump to 38.8 percent for communication arts and 31.1 for Math.

For a school district to meet AYP, it must have students in each subgroup at every grade level in every building meet proficiency levels; otherwise the district will face penalties.

Each grade level is divided up into subgroups according to the new federal law.

Subgroups include special education, free/reduced lunch, limited English proficiency, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American Indian, Pacific Islander and other/nonresponse.

Under Missouri's interpretation of the federal law, 30 students comprise a subgroup, which means that there must be at least 30 people of the same subgroup at a certain grade level to constitute a subgroup.

So, if there are 30 students in one subgroup in the third-grade class and they do not all score proficient, then the entire school district will receive a rating of "not-met," according to the federal law. However, if there are only 29 students in that third-grade subgroup that year, their scores on the proficiency tests will not be counted because they do not constitute a subgroup.

In addition, 95 percent of each subgroup must take the test for the results to count. If less than 95 percent a subgroup does not take the test, that group would receive a score of Level Not Determined, which also would cause the district to receive a "not-met" rating.

Several penalties may be imposed on school districts that fail to meet AYP, according to the No Child Left Behind Act.

After the second consecutive year, school districts must:

• Develop a two-year improvement plan within three months.

• Direct failing schools to spend 10 percent of Title 1 money for professional development.

• Provide peer review within 45 days.

• Offer students choice to go to another school in the district with free transportation.

After three consecutive years districts must take all previous actions, plus:

• Offer pupils from low-income families opportunity to receive supplemental learning services.

After four consecutive years, districts must take all previous action, plus take corrective action, including one or more of the following:

• Replace schools staff.

• Implement a new curriculum.

• Decrease management authority at school level.

• Appoint an outside expert to advise the school.

• Extend the school day and year.

• Change the school's internal organizational structure.

Furthermore, when school districts fail to meet AYP for four consecutive years, the law stipulates that state education departments will be required to take action that may also include offering students the choice to transfer to a higher-performing public school in another district.

After five consecutive years, schools must be reconstructed in one or more of the following ways:

• Reopen as a charter school.

• Replace all or most of school staff.

• State takeover of school operations.

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