Wednesday, March 12, 2008

School chiefs to fight sanctions

An update on the situation of California's schools facing sanctions. It's no surprise that the schools mentioned here are those serving a high number of Latino students. What's more is that schools in this area are serving high numbers of ELL students who in and of themselves are a diverse group. Because of migration this area of Califonia has experienced a slow increase in the number of students who speak one or more of the many Mexican indigenous languages. NCLB assessments and policies don't take this into account regardless of schools' success in showing student growth (as mentioned). At the state level these actions are yet another example of Schwarzenegger's poor decision making on education issues.

A brief bio of the schools mentioned in this article:
Alisal Union: 91.8% Latino and 67.9% ELL
Salinas City 80.4% Latino and 48.6% ELL
Greenfield Union: 95.6% Latino and 63.8% ELL
King City Union: 85.7% Latino and 53.6% ELL



The Salinas Californian

SEASIDE - At least three Monterey County school superintendents will head to the state Capitol on Thursday to fight sanctions recommended by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state schools chief Jack O'Connell.

"It's an opportunity for us to tell the real story," said Roger Antón, whose Salinas Union High School District has been listed as requiring "light" corrective action. "What we'd like to get across to the state is: 'Provide us the support we need, but do not impose on us sanctions that are going to distract us, and do not impose sanctions that you're not funding.'"

Antón's SUHSD is one of six county districts that face penalties proposed by Schwarzenegger and O'Connell, the state's superintendent of public instruction. The others are Alisal Union, Salinas City Elementary, Greenfield Union, King City Union, and Monterey Peninsula Unified.

Superintendents from each of those districts, except Greenfield, met Tuesday at Ord Terrace Elementary School in Seaside to discuss their respective progress and prepare for the coming trip to Sacramento, where they'll address their concerns to the State Board of Education. The board will decide whether to approve the governor's Feb. 27 recommendations of imposing light to severe sanctions on the 97 districts listed as program improvement under NCLB. Nearly half of the districts listed require "moderate" or "severe" action, according to the state.

Greenfield neediest

Greenfield's superintendent, Elida Garza, could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and it wasn't immediately clear why she did not attend the meeting.

Greenfield is one of six districts statewide listed as "severe" and has the highest-priority assistance rating of all 97 districts. Four Monterey County districts were recommended for "moderate" action - Monterey Peninsula Unified, Alisal Union, Salinas City Elementary and King City Union.

Marilyn Shepherd, superintendent of Monterey Peninsula Unified, said she'd like to know the financial impact sanctions would have on her district. That's a significant concern, she said, considering potential cuts the district already faces because of the state's budget crisis.

In accordance with federal law, under the light- to moderate categories the governor has suggested, state-approved education experts will evaluate districts and revise their curriculum and teaching techniques. For those facing the harshest sanctions, the state may replace the district's entire administration with state-appointed replacements.

If the State Board of Education approves the recommendations, California would be the first state in the nation to follow the letter of the law.

"The kids in our schools that are being educated are making progress, yet the reward our students and teachers get is: 'You're a failing district.' That's got to change," Antón said.

NCLB 'flawed,' 'unfair'

Esperanza Zendejas, superintendent at Alisal Union, said it's important to note that districts in this region have an added challenge: a high percentage of students who enter schools with little knowledge or no English skills. In her district, nine out of 11 schools are in program-improvement status.

Zendejas said the state should amend the state-required curriculum to meet individual districts' needs and add strategies to help English learners to achieve academic goals.

All five superintendents stressed that their districts have shown progress each year but could not attain federal NCLB growth targets, partially because those targets increase annually.

The state's tool for measuring student proficiency levels, the Academic Performance Index, does take into account student-growth levels.

"None of us are opposed to being held accountable for our students' achievements," Alonzo said. "But (NCLB's) a flawed methodology and an unfair system. It's all or nothing."

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