Schools don't have to transfer students

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Cape Girardeau School District won't transfer a single student from Blanchard and Jefferson elementary schools to better performing schools next semester because final calculations made by the state on students' standardized test scores. The calculations showed enough academic progress to avoid implementing the "school choice" provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, school officials said

Assistant superintendent Pat Fanger said the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education informed the district of the change earlier Monday. "That is very good news for our two schools," she told the school board Monday night.

Blanchard's black students initially were reported as having not met adequate yearly progress in Missouri Assessment Program test scores in communication arts. But DESE's new calculations now show the school made adequate yearly progress, Fanger said.

Jefferson Elementary School made adequatel yearly progress, or AYP, in communication arts, but not in math. Last year, the school made adequate yearly progress in math, but not communication arts. Student transfers don't apply until a school has failed to make adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years, Fanger said.

As a result, Jefferson students will have to show improved math scores next school year or the district once again will have to offer the transfer option.

The final results

But Fanger said after the school board meeting that district officials won't even bring up the option to parents in the future until DESE provides that year's final test scores rather than the preliminary scores.

Fanger said DESE officials indicated the change in status for the two schools didn't reflect any major change in the test scores of the students, but rather the use of a formula applied to those scores.

The No Child Left Behind Act includes a "safe harbor" provision for schools that can demonstrate students in a particular subgroup are making significant progress toward proficiency but have not technically met AYP.

Cape Girardeau school board members expressed dismay over the delay in getting final MAP results from DESE.

"Missouri has no clue what it is doing in terms of accountability," board member Charles Bertrand said. "To me, it's a pathetic situation."

Board member Tom Reinagel said the whole process put district administrators and teachers through a lot of stress.

Unfilled transfers

Superintendent Dr. David Scala earlier this fall sent letters to about 600 parents in the two schools explaining that they had the opportunity to request their children be transferred to other elementary schools in the district. The letter included a chart showing available classroom openings in each grade at Alma Schrader, Clippard and Franklin elementary schools.

In all, the families of a dozen students requested transfers.

In late October, school officials indicated they planned to transfer seven students from Jefferson and Blanchard with four going to Clippard and three to Franklin. School officials said they couldn't accommodate the other five because of a lack of classroom space.

State education officials said the district only had to allow student transfers where it wouldn't overcrowd classrooms.

District officials in late October stopped short of notifying the families who requested transfers. They said they would wait for the final calculations from DESE before answering those transfer requests. Fanger said at the time that it was possible that DESE's final calculations would eliminate the need to transfer students from Blanchard.

But Fanger said after the board meeting that school officials never thought such a change in status was likely.

School officials now plan to send a letter to all parents of children in Blanchard and Jefferson schools of the change in status. Fanger said a second letter explaining the situation would be sent specifically to those parents who requested their children be moved to other schools in the district.

335-6611, extension 123

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