Three schools face sanctions

Friday, August 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:59 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Derby Ridge Elementary, West Boulevard Elementary and Field Elementary schools publicly learned Thursday that they have failed the Missouri Assessment Program for two consecutive years. These three schools will now face sanctions in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act.

According to MAP standards, any school that does not meet yearly state testing goals for two consecutive years in the same subject must allow the option of student transfers.

Two other schools, Blue Ridge Elementary and Parkade Elementary, also needed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards or face the state-imposed sanctions. Blue Ridge passed. Parkade is safe from sanctions this year because they were proficient in mathematics, unlike last year, but failed in communication arts. The three failing Columbia schools were not able to successfully raise their yearly progress scores to the expected level of proficiency.

The parents of students who attend these schools now have the option of transferring their children to another school of their choosing, provided the school is not facing sanctions and willing to accept the students. If the schools continue to fail the MAP test, then more sanctions will be leveled against them. If schools fail for five consecutive years, the school staff can be forced out and the curriculum could suffer a complete overhaul.

As for the immediate sanctions, the number of students who will transfer is not yet known and will not be known for two months. Schools now have until Oct. 15 to formally challenge their scores. The prospect of multiple transfers in Columbia schools is an issue that is still met with optimism by school officials. The decision is left to the parents. Superintendent Phyllis Chase as well as first-year Field Elementary Principal Carol Garman, hopes that the decision will be a thoughtful and educated one.

“I would hope that parents visit with school personnel,” Chase said. “I encourage parents (to) visit their schools first.”

As for Garman, she, too, is reluctant to estimate the number of student transfers. But Garman notes the upward trend in her school scores, including fourth-grade math, that were exemplary.

“I feel like the majority of people I’ve talked to feel very good about what goes on here,” Garman said.

There was some good news with the announcement of the MAP results. For example, Principal Tim Majerus of Blue Ridge said the teachers were very excited because the results proved that the hard work of his staff had paid off.

Majerus was also very positive in his own reflections about the MAP test. He said parents had contacted him because they were excited and wanted to know how their kids did.

“Our teachers and students worked extra hard last year preparing for the test,” Majerus said. “We’re all very pleased with the results and pleased to see the increase in student achievement.”

Majerus also said that he knows that every school is making its best effort. He also believes that the results for Blue Ridge were important because it creates a good reputation for both the school and the community. Majerus credits his school’s proficiency marks to the use of past data and analysis that helped show Blue Ridge in which area each subgroup needed assistance.

Nathan Hurtado, a fifth-grade teacher at Blue Ridge, said that he was excited to see the percentage scores and also curious to see how Blue Ridge did compared to the schools in the district.

Hurtado said that he started preparing early for the 2004 MAP test and that it proved influential. He also said that by using the data from previous years, he was able to get a stronger understanding of areas that needed emphasis.

In fact, the strategy is becoming a popular one. Chase and Garman have already identified that same strategy as a way to improve upon all MAP scores next year. When asked, Chase said she sees Thursday as a positive day and stressed that Columbia schools made growth in many areas.

“Each school has a school improvement plan,” Chase said. “Even though they did not meet their overall goal, they all made progress this past year.”

One improvement plan is being introduced by another first-year principal, Vickie Robb of West Boulevard. West Boulevard was able to exceed the standards in math, but they failed in communication arts.

“We are putting together other programs to help with literacy development,” Robb said. “We are establishing a literacy center where a whole class will come in to meet with a team of five teachers for half an hour and get a double dose of reading.”

Still, regardless of new improvement plans, the question persists about who really is accountable for these failing scores. Chase said school officials like herself hold themselves accountable, but they continue to work through the school community so as to achieve the highest level of success. She also adds that the school community as a whole becomes a responsible participant in each child’s education. Chase is also more than willing to give encouragement to Columbia schools.

“Keep focusing on all the right things, and keep looking at the data,” Chase said.

Derby Ridge and Parkade chose not to comment.

Jenny Lim and Marissa Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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