Berkeley Unified got bad news and good news under the federal No Child Left Behind Act this week, with Rosa Parks Elementary entering the fifth year of low performance “program improvement” status, and John Muir Elementary winning national “blue ribbon” honors for program excellence.
Under No Child Left Behind, public schools in the United States receiving Title I funding for disadvantaged students must make federally-mandated “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) goals based on standardized state tests.
In addition, the State of California uses those same tests to judge public schools on a different standard: the Academic Performance Index (API).
NCLB guidelines list certain steps that a school must take each year for five years if it remains on the “needs improvement” list. A spokesperson in the Berkeley Unified School District’s administrative offices said that because this is the first year that any schools in the state or the nation are entering the fifth year of such “needs improvement” status, it is still unclear what may happen if Rosa Parks remains on the list.
“But we don’t expect that to happen,” BUSD Public Information Officer Mark Coplan. “We’re making steady improvement at Rosa Parks, and we expect it to get out of ‘needs improvement’ status at the end of this school year.”
On the federal AYP standard, Rosa Parks Elementary made progress from the spring of 2004 to the spring of 2005, but not enough to satisfy the federal goals. While details of the 2005 AYP results were not yet available from the California Department of Education, department records showed that the Rosa Parks’ overall school test scores rose 9 points between the spring of 2003 and the spring of 2004, the same growth rate total for all of California’s public schools. But NCLB mandates that schools must meet a certain proficiency rate within each selected racial and socioeconomic group as well as for the overall school. In 2004 Rosa Parks had an 11.7 percent proficiency rate for African-American students in English and an 11.7 percent rate in Math, missing the NCLB standards of 13.6 percent and 16 percent respectively. In that same year, the school also missed meeting the NCLB proficiency criteria for socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
Rosa Parks met its state-mandated API growth requirement in 2005, jumping almost 40 points from the year before (from 663 to 701). The State Department of Education had given the school a growth target of 7 points.
According to BUSD Information Officer Coplan, Berkeley Unified has been taking a “series of steps” to bring up the Rosa Parks’ AYP scores ever since the school was placed on the program improvement list.
“In the first year, NCLB mandates that 10 percent of Title I money going to the school must go directly to staff improvement, and that’s what we did,” he said. “But in addition, the district hired 60 extra tutors above and beyond the number of tutors we normally have in our schools.”
In addition, Coplan said that the district set up a Parent Resource Center at Rosa Parks, supported in part by Alameda County, to provide tutoring, mental health services, and other services for Rosa Parks parents.
In the second year on the “needs improvement” list, Coplan said that the district “rotated in a number of stronger teachers to the school, which is what helped cause a 30 point jump in the school’s API score,” and at the end of last year, BUSD moved veteran principal Pat Sadler over to Rosa Parks.
“The NCLB says that the district must reorganize the ‘needs improvement’ schools in order to bring them up to state and national standards,” Coplan said. “That’s what the district has already done, and we expect that to pay continued dividends in the next year and beyond.”
Meanwhile, BUSD Superintendent Michele Lawrence sent her congratulations to the staff and administration for John Muir Elementary for being one of 34 California public schools to be honored in the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Honors Program, saying that “they should be very proud of this recognition, that they so richly deserve.”
To receive the award, schools must meet API growth targets as well as federal AYP requirements. John Muir was one of only four schools selected from Alameda County, and one of only nine schools selected from the Bay Area.
BUSD Superintendent Lawrence and Board President Nancy Riddle gave credit for the John Muir national award to former Muir principal Nancy D. Waters, who retired at the end of last year for personal reasons. At the time of the school’s nomination by the California Superintendent for Public Instruction last December, Waters called the nomination “way too cool” and said that “we’re flying pretty high around here, right now.”