Students at six Columbia Public Schools will have transfer option

Friday, August 21, 2009 | 6:15 p.m. CDT; updated 7:52 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 22, 2009

CORRECTION: *Twenty-five of the school district's 30 schools did not meet adequate yearly progress standards. A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that number.

COLUMBIA — As a result of inadequate standardized test scores, students at six Columbia Public Schools can transfer to another school in the district.

Schools that receive Title I money under the No Child Left Behind Act must offer students attending schools that fail to achieve yearly standards the choice of enrolling in a different school in the district, according to federal guidelines.

Schools affected by the assessment

Students who attend the following schools are eligible for school choice: Benton, Blue Ridge, Derby Ridge, Field, Parkade and West Boulevard elementary schools.

Students can transfer to one of the following schools: Fairview, Midway, Two Mile Prairie, New Haven and Ridgeway.



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To transfer their children, parents must fill out a request for transfer form and turn it back in to the Columbia Public School District by Aug. 28.

The school board mailed out more than 2,500 forms to parents in affected districts, said Jack Jensen, assistant superintendent of elementary education.

As of Aug. 20, the district had received 125 transfer requests, 15 of which were rescinded. During the 08-09 school year, 22 students accepted school choice.

Jensen said he doesn't believe No Child Left Behind standards accurately reflect how well a school is doing.

The standards are meant to measure whether students performs at their grade level. But Jensen said that children develop at different levels and that there is never going to be a time when all children are achieving at the same level.

One of the district's main concerns is an increase in class size at schools that met the yearly progress standards.

According to a press release from the district, reaching a school's capacity cannot be a reason for denying a transfer.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recommends that kindergarten and first-grade classes have no more than 20 students. For third- and fourth-grade classes, it recommends a maximum of 23. In fifth grade, that maximum is 25.

To comply with No Child Left Behind guidelines, the Columbia Public School District has increased the maximum to 25 students for primary grades, 27 for second- and third-grade classrooms and 30 for fifth grade, Jensen said.

"There are schools in the district approaching or meeting these class size limits,” said superintendent Chris Belcher in the release.

The district will have final say about where the students will be transferred, though parental preference will be taken into account, the release said.

Last year, the Columbia public school system was allocated $3.1 million in Title I money, said Mary Humlicek, Title I coordinator for the district.

Of that $3.1 million, districts must spend 20 percent on services for students whose schools didn't meet the standards. That includes transportation for school choice students and supplementary educational services, such as after-school tutoring, for those who decide not to transfer.

Overall, 25 of the school district's 30 schools did not meet the yearly progress standards, determined by the Missouri Assessment Program test.* Statewide, 62 percent of all schools in Missouri failed to meet progress standards.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is conducting "listening and learning tours in order to determine what changes should be made" to No Child Left Behind, said department spokeswoman Jo Ann Webb.

In 2009, the No Child Left Behind Act required that 59.2 percent of students perform adequately in communication arts and 51.4 percent in mathematics.

The percentage of students required to meet profeciency standards is set to increase every year, with 100 percent proficiency required in 2014.

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