Six schools — five elementary schools and one middle school — were slapped with the “in need of improvement” label for not hitting a benchmark set by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act.
Under NCLB, districts must give parents the option of sending their students to higher-performing schools when a campus fails to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) on state tests for two years in a row.
Under the law, AYP is defined as an annual improvement of 7.5 percentage points on test scores. In order to make AYP, students in all NCLB subgroups — including low-income, limited English proficient and students with special needs — must have test score increases of 7.5 percentage points.
This year, the following campuses were defined as failing under NCLB, giving parents a choice to send their kids to other schools, with District 202 providing transportation:
- Creekside Elementary School
- Grand Prairie Elementary School
District 202 Community Relations Director Tom Hernandez noted that while the schools did not make AYP for two years in a row, three of them — Crystal Lawns, Creekside and Timber Ridge — did hit the mark this year.
Those schools will have to make AYP for two years in a row to have the school choice requirement lifted.
“All six of them in various, very significant ways, made significant progress” on test scores, Hernandez said. “Under a growth model, this would not be an issue.”
Parents at all six campuses received a letter in early August notifying them that they could opt to send students to a different campus.
Hernandez said he did not know exactly how many parents took the district up on that offer, saying it was “more than a handful, but not a lot.”
Parents had their pick of and Wesmere elementaries and Drauden Point and middle schools.
The district will use Title I funds, which are federal dollars available to schools with high percentages of students from low-income families, to pay the additional transportation costs associated with school choice, Hernandez said.
Under NCLB, Crystal Lawns, which failed to make AYP for three consecutive years, must also offer supplemental educational services in the form of tutoring. After four years, schools are subject to corrective action from the state board of education, and could face state-mandated restructuring after five years.
For students whose parents opted to transfer them, the district must allow them to remain at their new campus until they have completed the highest grade level at the school. In other words, a sixth-grader who transfers would be allowed to complete eighth grade at his or her new school. However, if the student’s home campus makes AYP for two years in a row, the district is no longer required to provide transportation, making it parents' responsibility.
According to a letter sent to parents at the six campuses on Aug. 2, families were required to notify the district if they planned to switch schools by Aug. 13.
NCLB's future unclear
With No Child Left Behind’s future uncertain, Hernandez said it’s also unclear what that means for District 202’s school choice campuses.
By next year, "It could be a moot point," Hernandez said.
As NCLB approaches its 10th birthday, the law has produced mixed results, and, in an article in the Huffington Post, former U.S. Department of Education researcher Mark Schneider cited politically driven “significant flaws” in the law.
“The process is moving to common core standards,” Hernandez said, noting that 46 states, including Illinois, have adopted statewide common standards.
“Most of the states are moving toward a growth model as opposed to those 7.5 percent percentage points,” he said, referring to AYP.
Does your child attend one of the six school choice campuses? Did you opt to switch schools, or choose to remain? Sound off in the comments.