Thursday, January 24, 2008

Free Tutoring For Students

Did you catch the front page article on District 95 in this week's Carbondale Times? If you want to read it, you have to pick up a copy around town as the Times don't do web. The main thrust of the story is that, since District 95 didn't meet the standards set by No Child Left Behind, it has to offer free tutoring to qualifying students, paying for the tutoring with 20% of the district's Title I budget. Parents wanting the tutoring have to apply for it by tomorrow, Jan. 25th, thought the article sasy the district will work with parents who contact it after the deadline.

I found the most interesting reading in paragraph 10, where District 95 Superintendent Linda Meredith says while meeting the standards for NCLB depends partially on students meeting the standards for scores in different subject areas, it also depends students in subgroups performing at a specified level. From what I gather, the three subgroups are race, income and special needs. If one of these subgroups does not meet the standards set by NCLB, the entire district is considered not in compliance and that, apparently, is what is happening with District 95. Could someone with more expertise in the area give more detail?

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I'm not an expert on No Child, but I sit on a parental advisory committee and have heard a lot of discussion of it. To be clear, I don't work for the district in any capacity; I'm a parent volunteer on some boards so that I can give input on my kid's school. Nothing more, nothing less.

My understanding about the subgroups is that for a school to pass, you do have to meet certain standards in all of those groups. The idea, I imagine, is to prevent schools from covering up failures with the hard to teach kids by pushing more effort into the groups that might be easier to raise test scores.

To my understanding, D95's "failure" is not because of one subgroup per se, but from one or more. The district office makes all of that information available to anyone who calls. Ms. Meredith would probably explain the law to anyone who wanted to know as well.

I have opinions on the D95 stuff that gets floated here, but I'd just encourage everyone who is interested to talk to the principal at their child's school. They have a School Improvement Plan with specifics on their own NCLB scores, as well as plans for what to do about scores that don't meet the mandated standards. If you need more information than that, contact the central office on Giant City Road. Some of this information -- without the school's context -- is also available on-line from the state of Illinois. I don't have the link handy, but you could probably get it from Google or the district website.

Also, the district *will* be flexible on the tutoring deadline. There are a lot of options for parents to obtain tutoring, including on-line and local, so anyone who is eligible may have questions. Contact the district if you do; they're mandated by law to help you get this service and seem willing in my opinon to work with parents. But they can't tell you who is "best" or who to go with because that is explicitly prohibited.
 
One of the things that affects ALL school scores, not only d95 is that special needs students are put into the overall average, and according to NCLB (to my understanding), they must meet the same criteria as the general population. That really can knock down a school's overall rating. D95 also has a higher number of low-income AND minority students than other districts in the area, and statistically, minorities and low-income students get lower test scores.

While I personally think NCLB is a crock, D95, with their unique demographics has made tremendous strides in keeping up with the ever increasing demands of NCLB.

As Scott M said, I would suggest contacting Ms. Meredith if anyone has any specific questions about the district and nclb.
 
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