School transfers

Monday, November 27, 2006

On the last day of August the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that students at Jefferson and Blanchard elementary schools would be eligible to transfer to other schools in the Cape Girardeau School District because the two schools did not make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The announcement chagrined teachers and administrators at the schools, who felt the quality of their work was being questioned, and sent some students at the schools and their parents into a tizzy wondering whether they could indeed receive a better education elsewhere.

The school district eventually announced that only seven students would be allowed to transfer because classroom space wasn't available for five other students who requested transfers.

Now it turns out that no students will be transferred because after state officials fiddled with a formula, the schools made sufficient academic progress even though their proficiency target wasn't met.

The calculations for every school district in the state were rerun after DESE asked federal officials to invoke the act's "safe harbor" provision that rewards schools for improving their Missouri Assessment Program scores even though the scores don't match the schools' proficiency target. Under the new calculations, Jefferson and Blanchard were given a reprieve.

All of this raises questions about the school district's handling of the issue and the NCLB act itself. Why all the folderol if the initial calculations could be wrong? What kind of system set up to give students the opportunity to transfer from bad schools allows the school district to determine which students and how many can transfer?

Worst of all is a system, NCLB, that fails in its mission of rooting out bad schools. Jefferson and Blanchard are as good as any schools in the district.

It's unfortunate that the students, their families and the district's educators have been subjected to this needless exercise in futility.

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