October 1, 2008

15 Schools in Utah Face Federal Sanctions

By Amy K. Stewart Deseret News

While educators don't enjoy having their school on the "improvement list" for the federal mandate No Child Left Behind, they say it is helping them to do better.

NCLB's Adequate Yearly Progress reports, announced by the Utah State Office of Education this week, revealed 15 schools on the improvement list as compared to 12 schools last year.

Title 1 schools that don't pass AYP two years in a row are put on the list and subject to sanctions. A school is designated Title 1 based on the number of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch.

To be removed from the list, the Title 1 school has to pass AYP two consecutive years.

At Level 1 of the improvement list, the school must send notification letters to parents and offer them the option of sending their child to a different school. The school must pay for transportation if a parent chooses another school.

Level 2 is the same as Level 1, but the school must also offer supplemental educational services. A state-approved outside entity has to provide extended learning opportunities outside the school day -- such as after-school tutoring.

During the first two years on the list, schools receive $150,000 in federal grant money to aid them in creating a school improvement plan and to help with professional development.

Jordan School District's Midvale Elementary School is on Level 2.

"No one likes to be called a failing school. I don't think we are," said Midvale Principal Karen Kezerian. "The 'failing' label doesn't help. The money does."

Level 3 on the list is the same as Level 2, except the school is also monitored by the state. The state must approve the school's improvement plan, and the school must submit progress reports to the state throughout the year. This is also the first step of "corrective action."

Two schools are on Level 3 this year: San Juan School District's Mexican Hat Elementary and Washington School District's East Elementary.

Mexican Hat is on the Navajo reservation and is 100 percent Navajo students. The kids struggle in language arts. The school has implemented the Reading First program, among other interventions.

"It's difficult being on the list but we are headed in the right direction," said Mexican Hat Principal Aaron Brewer.

East Elementary has many lower-income students. With grant money, the school has implemented the Reading Recovery program, has been able to hire additional staff to do one-on-one reading strategies, and now has a math coach for professional development.

"It's been a boon to us," said East principal Joe Eckman. "We have been able to do some interventions we couldn't have done without the money."

Level 4 requires the school to begin making plans for restructuring. And the school still has to meet the requirements of Levels 1, 2 and 3.

Level 5 requires the school to implement its restructuring plan. The school is then allowed to start with a clean slate.

West Middle School in Uintah School District is the only school in Utah to have made it to Level 5. It closed and reopened this fall with a K-8 grade configuration, a new principal and significant changes in staffing. The school even has a new name: Eagle View Elementary School.

"They get a fresh start," said Karl Wilson, state director of Title 1 programs.

While most schools view being on the list as a negative, Wilson says many positive things have occurred for the sanctioned schools including a greater focus on student data, more support for students who are struggling and aid for teachers to develop research-based strategies.

School districts as a whole can be placed on the improvement list. Districts in Levels 1 and 2 of the list are required to put 10 percent of their Title 1 funding toward professional development to address achieving AYP.

Districts in Level 3 and beyond are to implement corrective action such as revising curriculum.

There are six school districts on the district improvement list this year, as compared to last year's 10. They are: Duchesne, Level 4 in math; Granite, Level 4 in language arts and Level 2 in math; Jordan, Level 2 in math; Ogden, Level 3 in language arts and Level 4 in math; Washington Level 3 in language arts; and Weber, Level 3 in math.

No Child Left Behind is a federal mandate that aims for schools to ensure all students are succeeding -- regardless of ethnicity, income, disability or English skills -- and are proficient in language arts and math by 2014.

For more information on Utah's AYP reports, go to usoe.k12.ut.us.

E-mail: [email protected]

(c) 2008 Deseret News (Salt Lake City). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.