I Scratch My Head

In a stack of papers called Legislation.

  • May
  • 14
  • 2007

A few schools in my district failing to meet their goals impacts all schools next school year. In order to ever move out of Program Improvement (PI) status, the term given to districts like mine, all 11 schools in my district must meet their goals for 2 consecutive years. Roughly, that’s 26,400 students, 1,100 teachers, 35 administrators, and 110 support staff members all working together for 2 straight years across multiple campuses covering easily 30 square miles.

I can’t even get 29 students in my classroom to agree on whether or not my shirt matches my tie.

As In… Magnum?

We’re in PI status because of not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), a number determined by a formula generated by the federal government. AYP can be seen as a school’s report card… sort of. It’s made up of student performance (on CAHSEE and STAR), graduation rates, and participation percentages.

Just getting a kid in the seat to bubble in a few circles counts toward our AYP.

On the contrary, a student cutting school on the day of testing or in jail unable to attend school or who has relocated but is still on our records or whose parent has exempted him/her from taking the STAR hurts our AYP.

No joke.

Same Pay, More Kids

Because we are now a PI district (and because my district has decided to treat all campuses as PI schools), schools must provide support classes for strategic (2-3 years below grade level) and intensive (4 or more years below grade level) students. Those are more classes that need a teacher.

As such, Morgan-Hart funding is out the window for mainstream students. Instead of hiring more teachers, the current number of teachers will instruct more students per period and also take on the support classes. All English 1 and freshman math classes will now be stacked at 30:1 (32:1 for those math classes). They have been loaded at 20:1 for the last decade or more.

Raising the ratio equals more students in a teacher’s class, lowering the number of sections needed. With fewer sections of freshman English and math, teachers are available to teach other courses, namely those support classes.

Those sections of English and math that are associated with a support class will continue to enjoy the 20:1 perk. But if you’re a core kid (no more than 1 year below grade level), you’re thrown in with 10 more students than your previous year compatriots ever lived with.

Who Is Going To Fight?

The sad thing is that all of this is very complicated; the majority of our parents have no idea why this is happening and no one from the district office is going to explain it to them. You, faithful reader, probably don’t even entirely understand it. I’m sitting waist deep in the repercussions of all this and I’m not entirely certain I’ve explained it accurately. API? AYP? APR? Base vs. growth?

Is this convoluted mess the best system of “accountability” we can muster?

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