New Haven School District Not in “Program Improvement”

September 30, 2008

By Linh Tat

UNION CITY — As it turns out, the New Haven school district is not in “program improvement,” a label given to schools and districts that fail to meet federal accountability benchmarks two years in a row, district officials announced Monday.

The district had been given the controversial label earlier this month after standardized test scores revealed that not enough of its special education students demonstrated proficiency in English and math to meet federal standards.

Because special education students also missed the target last year — when one too few students was tested — the district was notified that it had been placed on the federal watch list. Schools and districts in program improvement face government sanctions, which, at its extreme, could include the firing of staff and overhauling of the educational system.

But after the initial report came out, the state recalculated the results, using a “Safe Harbor” provision that essentially waived the requirement that all subgroups must meet federal benchmarks for a district to stay out of program improvement.

Instead, the provision recognizes subgroups that show substantial improvement, even if they do not meet their goal.

“It’s a way to say if you grew a lot but you still missed the cut point, we’ll still give you credit for it,” said Craig Boyan, director of assessment and evaluation for New Haven.

This year, the district’s special education subgroup was two students shy of meeting the target, but the percentage of students in the group who demonstrated proficiency in English increased 8.3 percent over the previous year.

Interim Superintendent David Pava, in a statement, called the federal guidelines “absurd.”

“I’m pleased to announce that we are not a program improvement district, but frankly, it bothers me to have to do so,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to ‘clear our name,’ so to speak — not in a district where teachers, classified employees and administrators work so hard every day. “… The New Haven community knows this is a quality school district.”

Reach Linh Tat at 510-353-7010 or ltat@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Read her blog postings at www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.

Originally published by Linh Tat, The Argus.

(c) 2008 Oakland Tribune. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

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