Archive for Wednesday, July 10, 2002

List says two Baldwin schools need improvement

July 10, 2002

Two of the three USD 348 elementary schools have been listed by the U.S. Department of Education as not having made adequate academic progress with some students. While concerned with the listing, district officials maintain it's a small percentage of students involved and doesn't reflect on the district's students as a whole.

Marion Springs Elementary School and Baldwin Elementary School were two of 118 Title I funded Kansas schools on the list released last week as part of President Bush's new child education law, the No Child Left Behind Act.

Vinland Elementary School is not a Title I school and could not be considered.

"Any school district that receives Title I funds from the federal government has to show so much annual improvement for the kids identified under Title I," Baldwin Supt. James White said. "We didn't show enough growth."

White said the Baldwin schools receive Title I funding based on the number of students that receive free meals. The funding received is used to help students that score below the 40th percentile on reading and math.

He said he believed the list was compiled based on the state assessment scores of only those students below the 40th percentile. The list is not reflective of all of the district's students, he said.

The new federal law applies only to schools that have been on the list for two consecutive years. The law allows parents whose children attend those schools on the list to demand a move to a higher-performing school within the same district.

White said the law would have little affect on the Baldwin district because parents already have a choice which elementary school their children attend.

Even though this is MSES' and BES' first year on the list, the district is concerned and will be reviewing its curriculum, along with the help of a state-provided consultant, White said, to see how it can improve in those areas.

"When you don't show enough growth in the services you provide for the children, the federal government requires you put together a plan to show your growth in the future," he said.

"It's serious from the standpoint that we'd rather not be on a negative list," he said. "Are we teaching the right material? Should we be teaching more to the state assessment? That will cause us to look again at those issues."

One of the reasons the Baldwin schools might have made the list, White said, is because the district did not place as much of an emphasis on state assessments as it did its own curriculum until recently.

"It was the position of this school district, up until a little more than a year and a half ago, that state assessments weren't important," he said. "We're now seeing more focus and attention being paid to state assessments than ever before."

Which is why, he said, the district has turned its attention to state assessments and added positions, like reading specialists, to improve in those areas.

"I don't believe we're seeing the scores we want yet, but I believe we will over the next few years," he said. "I don't expect to see overwhelming results in one year, but I do in two, three years.

"The teachers will do all that's in their power to move all of our children along appropriately on an annual basis," White said. "I assure the parents and patrons of the community that our teachers will continue to work hard."

Nationwide, 8,652 schools made the list. There were many states that had fewer numbers of schools than Kansas that made the list, which White attributed to Kansas' high standards.

"Each state sets its own individual standards," he said. "Kansas standards are quite a bit higher than 90 percent of the states."

Which is one of the reasons he hoped people would not jump to conclusions about the schools' overall performance based on the list.

"I hope that common sense would make them question where the statistics and this data came from," he said.

For more information about Kansas assessments, visit the Kansas State Department of Education Website at www.ksde.org. To learn more about the No Child Left Behind Act or to see the states and their schools that made the list, visit the U.S. Department of Education Website at www.ed.gov.

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