Columbia School District to appeal sanctions placed on Lewis Elementary

Friday, August 6, 2010 | 12:42 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools will appeal sanctions placed on Lewis Elementary School because it fell short under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The sanctions were carried over from Field Elementary School because the faculty and 297 students made the move from Field, which closed in December 2009, to Lewis, which opened in January. Now, with students transferring from other schools and new teachers hired, the district wants the sanctions removed so Lewis can have a fresh start.

Field was subject to previous sanctions because it fell short of federally mandated academic progress goals. In standardized tests this year, Lewis fell short, which has resulted in stronger sanctions. This means the district is required to restructure the school by offering transfers, adding more educational services and possibly replacing the staff. 

“Because Alpha Hart Lewis is a new school, we originally review the population of students and the teachers as to the schools where they were coming from,” said Alen Stephens, supervisor with federal instructional improvement at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher said the district has talked with the department about the situation, and the state suggested the district make an appeal. Once the district sends a letter of appeal, the department will review the school's status within 30 days and the sanctions will likely be removed or lowered, Stephens said.

"It is very likely the state will rescind this designation since Alpha Hart Lewis is not Field,” said Peter Stiepleman, district assistant superintendent for elementary education.

Lewis will have about 650 students enrolled this fall, Stiepleman said. Only 17 percent of the student population will be from Field. Students will come from other elementary schools such as Benton, Blue Ridge, Derby Ridge, Lee and Parkade. New teachers also have been hired, he said.

Stephens said the department understands the situation in the school has changed.

“We know they are opening with a more diverse population of students from other schools and make up of teaching staff,” Stephens said. “Because of the increase in student population and new teachers, they provide the opportunity to make modifications to the school’s improvement plan from the previous year."

As previously reported in the Missourian, Columbia Public Schools has been placed at district improvement level three. This level includes removing schools from the district, replacing district administrators, abolishing or restructuring the district and allowing students to transfer to other districts.

Belcher said the district is working to improve. Efforts will include changing the curriculum in language arts, math and science.

“We are redoing science instruction for grades four and five,” Belcher said. “We are also developing professional learning communities, which is a model looking at student data and faculty trying to see what will help the students improve.”

Stiepleman said the district is excited about what they’ve got planned for the year.

“It is with this knowledge that we work tirelessly to be the best district in the state and provide an excellent education for all students,” he said.

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