Q. I recently received a disturbing letter regarding my school. I love my neighborhood school, but the letter indicated it’s not meeting adequate yearly progress under NCLB and it said I could send my daughter to a higher performing school and that her transportation would be covered and she would be guaranteed placement. I don’t know how to make sense of this. I am leaning toward keeping my daughter at the school and staying involved as a parent, but it feels as if someone is giving up on us. What if many parents pull out their kids? What happens to the school then, or in the future? Should I reconsider my gut feeling to keep my daughter at this school? She has three years to go.

Many reasons to choose a school – beyond CSAP

First, do your research

You have asked a timely and important question that is also quite complex.  I am going to provide some short answers, and also direct you to the Colorado Department of Education where there are pages and pages of information about Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP):

http://www.cde.state.co.us/FedPrograms/danda/ayp.asp

Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), schools have a target for all children to be proficient in reading and math as measured by CSAP (or soon to be TCAP) by spring 2014.  When NCLB was adopted, targets were set for each year leading up to 2014. For 2011, the target was near 95 percent for elementary schools in reading and writing with slightly lower percentages required for middle and high schools. So, in order for schools to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) they must have 95 percent of students earning partially proficient, proficient, or advanced on CSAP in reading and math.

Please note that for AYP, students earning “partially proficient” are counted as “proficient.”  There is also a requirement that 95 percent of students in CSAP testing areas be tested. In addition, there are some ways that schools can show significant improvement to achieve AYP without meeting the targets. But, most schools meeting AYP do so through having nearly 95 percent of students earning partially proficient, proficient, or advanced on CSAP in reading and math.

Many schools fail to meet AYP

In 2010, only 62 percent of schools achieved AYP.  Your daughter’s school is certainly not alone in not making AYP!  For Title I schools, those schools receiving additional funding due to higher percentages of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, there are significant implications of not meeting AYP.  The second consecutive year in which a Title I schools fails to meet AYP a letter must be sent to parents telling parents of this and allowing parents to transfer their child(ren) to another school in the district that is making AYP.  That is why you received the letter that you received.  It is required by NCLB that parents are notified if their school is not making AYP after the second year.

What happens in the third year or beyond of not making AYP

If the school fails to make AYP for a third year, they must provide supplemental services to students who are low-income and low-performing.  For instance, they may provide after-school tutoring at no cost to families.  After four and five years of not making AYP, schools may face corrective action and restructuring.  Corrective action may be something such as required additional professional development for the staff.  Restructuring may include such things as hiring a new principal or new staff members.

Not all families jump ship

In my experience, some families will decide to move their child after receiving this letter, but many will not.  For many families, the alternative provided by the district presents challenges.

Although transportation is provided to the other school, it is much harder for parents to be involved when the school is farther away from home.  My guess is that families who are very concerned about CSAP results likely have already moved their child out of the school or chose a different school from the beginning.  If you feel like your daughter is receiving a good education where she is, then I would suggest leaving her at the school.  There are so many other measures of success for a school.

Other reasons for open enrolling

Kathleen LutteneggerI open enroll my daughter into another elementary school in our district.  I think her school is absolutely wonderful!  That said, it pales in comparison to what would be our assigned school based on CSAP alone. Our assigned school has extremely high CSAP scores whereas the school we choose tends to score much lower.  However, I know that the school she is at is much better suited for her as a learner and for us as a family. I am involved at her school and I feel confident about what she is learning and doing as a student.  That is much more important to me than her school’s CSAP scores, which tend to reflect family income perhaps more than the quality of education.

– Kathleen Luttenegger

Ask yourself these key questions

I love your thoughtful, considered approach to this letter offering change.  There are not many places in our lives that consider or encourage slow, measured decision making.  Taking that approach is encouraging to me and great modeling for your kids.

As you work with this concern you might do a pro/con column.  Ask questions such as:

  • What would you gain by moving?
  • What would you lose?
  • What would gain by staying? Lose?
  • Who is sending in the letter?
  • What would they gain if you moved?
  • What would they lose?

Suzanne LustieYou know what is good for you, your family and your community.  There isn’t a perfect school.  We make the best choice we can for our kids and our family and then work with that decision.

NCLB (No Child Left Behind) is only one measure.  It’s a measure that is not universally recognized.  It’s unfortunate that a letter would cite that as a reason for dismissing what another school is doing.  If a school is taking care of business you will be able to see that with several measures not just one.

I encourage you to broaden the lens you are using if you are curious after a pro/con exercise turns up reasons for further exploration.  Thank you for being the kind of thoughtful parent that makes our schools thrive.

– Suzanne Lustie