BUSD Fails to Meet No Child Left Behind Goals

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 29, 2008

Berkeley Unified School District did not meet the 95 percent participation criterion for local education agencies in their third year of Program Improvement for 2007, according to a state Department of Education release Wednesday. 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger along with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced his recommended course of action as required by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act for 97 school districts (local education agencies or LEAs) which have not met student achievement targets for five years. 

According to the state’s education department website, the 97 LEAs—including Berkeley, Oakland and San Lorenzo—have advanced to the federal Title I Program Improvement Year 3 status, based on “failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for at least five years and are now subject to corrective action and targeted technical assistance as specified by federal law.” 

District superintendent Bill Huyett told the Planet that the district suffered from low participation rates when it came to taking the California Standardized Tests. 

“Under No Child Left Behind, students are required to take the standardized tests. But some parents have a problem with No Child Left Behind. There’s a conflict there.” 

According to district spokesperson Mark Coplan, the low participation rate was predominant among special education and Berkeley High School students. 

“It’s unfortunate that we have a low participation rate at the high school,” said School Board President John Selawsky. 

“I am not sure what we can do to increase it. We have been having the same problem for the last couple of years. The state allows parents to opt out of the tests but we face problems at the federal level. Berkeley High has 3,200 students, that’s one third of the district’s population.” 

The governor’s proposed improvement plans were broken into four tiers. Berkeley Unified was included in the least restricted tier, which says that the district would have to amend its current education plan. 

School board vice president Nancy Riddle described this as “good news” at the school board meeting Wednesday. 

“The sanctions aren’t anything surprising,” said Selawsky. “It’s not anything we wouldn’t be doing. We renew and update our LEA plan regularly.” 

Huyett told the Planet that Lodi Unified School District—where he was superintendent for 6 years before joining Berkeley Unified—had met every standard in PI 3 except for special education students testing in English. 

Lagunitas Elementary, Tracy Joint Unified, Fallbrook Union High and Nevada Joint Union High also missed the PI 3 participation status. 

“In all cases we embrace a singular goal —to make sure that all districts and schools are working effectively to improve student achievement,” O’Connell said in a statement Wednesday. 

“The state has an obligation to not only implement federal law but to assist our school districts to close their achievement gaps and help all students succeed in school,” he said. 

O’Connell recommended to the State Board of Education that the 97 LEAs enforce a curriculum based on state academic content and achievement standards. 

“I have joined forces with Superintendent O’Connell to craft individualized reform plans to make sure the solution fits the district,” Gov. Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “By working together, I know we can make great strides for the children of our state. California's standards are internationally acclaimed, and when successfully implemented they lead students to academic success.” 

O’Connell acknowledged that implementing a standards-based curriculum would require training and skill.  

“Where achievement lags, it’s appropriate that districts look more deeply at how they are delivering a standards-based education to every student,” O'Connell said.  

“I firmly believe that in most cases achievement gains will be more effectively achieved by assisting districts to improve rather than by imposing some of the more severe sanctions allowed under NCLB, such as deferring programmatic funds, removing staff, or closing the district or schools.” 

School districts state wide are currently protesting the governor’s proposal to slash almost $5 billion in funding from K-12 education to close an estimated $14.5 billion state budget shortfall.