Some school leaders challenge "No Child" failing grades

By Kathy Sweeney - bio | email

CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - As parents in Cape Girardeau and Jackson get their children settled in to the new school year, district leaders are required to send them some bad news.

"Many times, this does send the wrong message about our school system that it's failing," said Cape Girardeau Superintendent Dr. Jim Welker.

Welker didn't hide his frustration as he walked me through the letter  he sent to parents about MAP test results.  But, it's not the letters M-A-P that concern him.  It's AYP, or adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

"In almost every area, well matter of fact every area except one, we improved," Welker explained. "but each year the target that the state establishes goes up. "

Which is why, Welker says, this mandatory letter must focus on the levels students didn't reach.

He says some of the information on the form letter is wrong, like a listed graduation rate of 70.3 percent.

"We believe it's closer to 73 percent," he said.

And, all of it sends the wrong message to parents.

"It sounds great to not leave any children behind and we don't want to, but I think this particular bill sends the wrong message to people in the community and parents that all schools are failing when really they are not," Welker said.

"The standards are really unachievable," said Jackson Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rita Fisher, who has the same level of frustration as her counterparts in Cape.

"100 percent of our students to be proficient by 2014 is really not reasonable," Fisher said. She says school leaders had hoped "No Child" standards would have been readjusted to be made more reachable by now.

But, despite the less than positive report card, she's confident Jackson parents see their kids improving.

"Anytime they come into our buildings and meet our teachers, our students are happy, they're safe, they're learning," Fisher said.

Both districts face "Corrective Action" according to No Child standards.

That means they'll have to take federal money out of existing programs to pay for supplemental services, like tutoring.

In Cape, corrective action at Jefferson and Blanchard elementaries for the second year in a row also gave parents the right to choose if they wanted to send their kids to another grade school.

Dr. Welker says two dozen students from each school moved to other buildings.

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