By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer
QUESTION: Why are schools labeled "underperforming" under No Child Left Behind? What happens to them?
ANSWER: No Child Left Behind sets academic standards and schools test students against them.
The goal, says Andrew Benson, senior policy officer for KnowledgeWorks, an education foundation in Cincinnati, is to have all students pass state standards by 2013-14.
Performances on those tests and other "benchmarks" of effectiveness - such as graduation rates, absenteeism, the percentage of teachers who are properly certified, etc. - all feed into schools' ratings.
Schools must show "adequate yearly progress" or face a series of sanctions.
After the first year of poor performance, a school must devise an improvement plan. In the second year of no improvement, parents can move their children to other public schools in the district.
The third year, the district must offer "supplemental services" to students who don't pass the tests - such as after-school instruction, mentoring and tutoring.
In year four, the school district can add at least one of several options:
Lengthen the school day or year.
Replace the principal and other staff.
Hire an outside expert to run the school.
The fifth year, staff is replaced, and the school can reopen as a charter school or be under state control.
There are hundreds of low-performing schools nationwide, including 36 in Ohio and six in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati already began reorganizing troubled schools in 1999, firing or transferring principals and teachers, and trying new curriculum.
Most of the reorganized schools showed better test scores but still don't have the 75 percent passing rate the state requires on tests.
No Child Left Behind calls for 100 percent passage. It's implied that schools could lose federal Title I money if they fail to do so.
"The bottom line is, they're not going to give a district money if they don't show some improvement," said Jim Boothe, chairman of Xavier University's education department.
But because Title 1 money supports disadvantaged students, districts with more of those students stand to lose most, Benson added.
Question: Why is Cincinnati Public Schools seeking volunteer tutors for students who speak Spanish?
Answer: The tutors are not just for Spanish-speaking students, says Sister Margarita Brewer, community coordinator of CPS' Second Language Acquisition Department.
CPS has about 700 pupils whose primary language is not English.
"More and more people are arriving, especially from African countries," she said. "Last week, we enrolled another 40-plus (foreign) students."
Tutors only need to know English.
E-mail education questions to Denise Smith Amos at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 768-8340.
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