Monday, August 28, 2006

Schools In Columbus Not Making The Grade

The News Reporter

Because both local school systems have low-performing schools for the third consecutive year, there is the possibility that the N.C. Department of Public Instruction could send in advisory teams to help run things.

The Whiteville City Schools and the Columbus County Schools – called local education agencies (LEA) by state bureaucrats – both have campuses not meeting the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Both systems have one or more schools that continue to fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in reading with NCLB.

Each school must meet a statewide goal set by the state in reading, as well as math. Each school, including all of its applicable subgroups of students, must meet these goals, which are raised every three years.

Locally, subgroups include students with disabilities, low-income students, white students, black students and Native American students.

There must be 40 or more students in a subgroup for it to count. A failing subgroup keeps the entire school from making AYP.

One subgroup’s continuing failure to make AYP keeps the entire school system from making AYP and this is what has happened to Columbus County and Whiteville.

With a third year looming of LEA Improvement, the state may decide that both systems will enter LEA Corrective Action, which can call for an advisory team to come in and help run the system and at the very least, a consultant coming in to offer options.

Whiteville and Columbus County have a lot of company. At least 17 other North Carolina LEA’s are entering the corrective action phase. That number could increase in October when the state finally releases its much-delayed math scores.

Nearly 40 percent the state’s school systems are in LEA Improvement with more on the way. As many as two-thirds of the systems are expected to be in LEA Improvement when the minimum test score goals in reading and math are raised in 2007-08.

In the city system, it has been Central Middle School that has kept the system in LEA Improvement based on reading and math scores. CMS, which itself is in School Improvement, made AYP this year, based solely on its reading scores. If its math scores aren’t up to par, it could lose that AYP status and push the school system into still another year of LEA Improvement.

It takes two years to go into School or LEA Improvement and two years to come out.

In the county schools, the LEA Improvement status is because of Nakina Alternative, Fair Bluff Elementary, Guideway Elementary, Tabor City Elementary, Tabor City Middle and Williams Township Elementary school.

Like Central Middle, Fair Bluff Elementary made AYP and awaits math scores to make sure.

All of the above listed schools are in School Improvement because one or more subgroups have been unable to make AYP.

Pending the October math scores, more county schools could enter School Improvement status.

NCDPI has a list of schools that need to be watched and are in danger of going into School Improvement. They are Acme-Delco Middle, Chadbourn Middle, Chadbourn Elementary, Hallsboro Middle, Edgewood Elementary and Whiteville Primary schools.

All of these schools have large subgroups that historically have difficulty working at grade level.

Statewide, only 60 percent of the public elementary and middle schools made AYP. That number is likely to decrease when the math scores are released.

Neither local system knows what NCDPI has in store.

“We haven’t heard anything definite,” said Columbus County Schools Superintendent Dan Strickland. “Nothing’s official yet.”

The state will most likely send full teams to the worst performing school systems.

“We may get a team, depending on the level we’re on,” Strickland said. Or it might be a consultant for one year.

With so many school systems in LEA Improvement, the state only has so many teams and consultants it can assign LEAs.

Strickland said that a consultant would act as a guide for “the direction we need.”

He said that a visiting team last spring from NCDPI was “pleased” with the county’s strategic planning that focused on more staff development.

When Columbus County first entered LEA Improvement, it had only weeks to develop its first strategic plan for moving out of LEA Improvement. The county has continued to build upon that initial plan. Already, it has held two summer academies for its principals.

The Whiteville City Schools has similar plans and academies in place.

“That team said we were on the right track to improve,” Strickland said.

Part of the county’s plan is to require its principals to make daily walkthroughs of every classroom.

Historically, most principals rarely visit their classrooms unless something special is going on or there is a discipline problem or “fire to put out.”

Strickland believes the walkthroughs will help.

If the city and county schools cannot pull themselves out of LEA Improvement, they could face the following actions:

They will have to inform parents of the district’s status. They might have to defer program funds or reduce administrative funds. They will have to align their instruction with the N.C. Standard Course of Study, something that both systems have already done.

Either system could see the State Board of Education replace local personnel.

The state could step in and remove the school system from local jurisdiction and establish an alternate governance structure for the school.

The state could also abolish the local school boards and even allow students to attend school in adjacent school districts.

Strickland said that neither system is sure of what might happen.

I'm not surprised at this. First things first, I don't like No Child Left Behind. It's a bad law that only makes bad schools worse. Second, I don't like NC's end of the year testing. Our schools do a great job in the eary grades, my 6 year old son learned to read, tell time and do math last year in kindergarten at Williams Township. Back when I was in kindergarten, we counted to 10, learned ABCs, played, took naps, played and played some more. But once a kid gets into the higher grades it's less learning what's needed and a nine month cram session for EOGs. A lot gets left out and that child misses out. Another thing is that not all kids are wired the same. So learn math and science easy but struggle at history and social studies. Another loves history and reading but dislikes math to the point that they almost refuss to learn it. But with NCLB, all these kids must be taught the same. Why? If a kid shows a natural mechanical ability, why not develop that. If a child has a nack at science then teach him the skills needed to develop that. One size fits all doesn't work. No matter what the PC crap of the day is, we are all different. We are all good at something, but that something varies from person to person. We need schools that put a child in a class that they will benefit from. Down the road we are going to need scientist as well as auto mechanics, we will need engineers as well as landscapers. White, black, indian it doesn't matter, teach the child not the ethnic subgroup.

Now onto the schools themselves, I want school vouchers. Our government attaches about $9,000 (national average) to each student each year. I want to send my kids to any school that I want. If I want to drive 45 miles to take my children to school that's my choice and I should be free to make it. My wife and I send our 2 oldest kids to Williams. I like the school and like a lot of the teachers there. Some are great and some are so so. Every year we have to get Whiteville to release them and then go before the county to pick them up. It shouldn't be this hard. WTS is filled to the max. Why because a lot of people do what we do and send their children there. We should have open enrollment in all our taxpayer funded schools, period. We should also have vouchers so that the tax money attached to my kids follows them to the school I decide to send them to, regardless if it's public, private, charter, magnate, vocational, etc.

posted by David at 7:42 PM :: Permalink ::

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