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Elementary school gets federal scrutiny

By David Scharfenberg
Friday October 18, 2002


Berkeley school officials are concerned that Rosa Parks Elementary School, despite substantial improvements in its Academic Performance Index (API) scores, could face a major shake-up next year under President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” legislation signed in January. 

The law requires schools that repeatedly fail to make adequate progress on standardized tests to undergo significant reforms, such as a replacement of large sections of the school’s staff or appointment of an outside expert to advise the school on its progress. 

Rosa Parks far exceeded a state target for API improvement last year, and met goals for all numerically-significant racial subgroups at the school. But in order to officially meet state API growth goals, a school must improve as a whole, among racial subgroups and among economically-disadvantaged students. Rosa Parks fell one point short of meeting its target in the economically-disadvantaged category. 

Rosa Parks administrators could not be reached for comment. But board of education member Terry Doran said it would be unfair to require a major overhaul at Rosa Parks because of one point. 

“It feeds my criticism of the whole testing mania in the state,” he said. “I don’t think it adequately interprets the successes we do have in our schools.” 

But state officials suggested there could be some wiggle room for Rosa Parks and the school may be able to avoid significant change. 

The “No Child Left Behind” law requires weighty reform for any schools that fail to make “adequate yearly progress” on standardized tests several years in a row. The severity of the reform mounts with each passing year. 

The California Department of Education has used API growth target figures, like those released Thursday, to determine “adequate yearly progress” up until now. Under that system, Rosa Parks would apparently face a significant overhaul. 

But California Department of Education officials said they might adjust the way they look at API and measure “adequate” progress in the coming months. A decision is expected in January. 

Furthermore, individual schools have a right to appeal individual test scores. Berkeley’s Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Chris Lim said the school district might pursue the appeal route. 

But if the current system holds, the Berkeley Unified School District would have to impose one of six reforms on Rosa Parks next year. The options include replacing large sections of school staff, putting a new curriculum in place, decreasing the principal’s authority, appointing an outside expert to advise the school on its progress, extending the school year or school day or restructuring the school’s internal organization. 

If Rosa Parks fails to meet growth targets again on the next round of tests, reform options include reopening as a charter school and state takeover. 


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