Monday, October 10, 2005

Lagunitas district faces sanctions for alternative approach --

A test of wills by Jennifer Gollan from the Marin Daily Journal Sunday Oct. 9, 2005

An interesting article about what happens when parents in a district revolt against NCLB. If only we would see more of this.

The same maverick tendencies that prompted the Lagunitas School District to offer alternative curricula in lieu of traditional education programs could lead to mounting sanctions from state and federal education regulators, and, ultimately, a state takeover.

"Irony is one of the better words to put on it," said Richard Sloan, a member of the Lagunitas School District Board of Trustees since 1972, and a proponent of test exemptions. "The Lagunitas School District could be used as a model for education nationwide. Instead, we are under attack and are being punished for being so successful. We have demonstrated how to get the kind of parental involvement talked about everywhere, yet it is bound to destroy us.

"We're in a nightmare right now."

Last year, the federal government introduced sanctions against the 300-student district because a third of Lagunitas' students had boycotted state standardized tests. The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires that at least 95 percent of students participate in state standardized tests.

San Geronimo Valley School, which includes kindergarten through sixth grade, fell subject to federal penalties this year after about 90 percent of the students who were supposed to have taken state tests excused themselves. And if the past is any guide, the district's other school, Lagunitas School, which includes kindergarten through eighth grade, will likely follow suit next year, said Mary Buttler, superintendent of the Lagunitas School District.

Under No Child Left Behind, the district is in the so-called "program improvement" category, and must spend about $4,000 annually on training programs for teachers, and send letters home to parents notifying them that they may send their children to higher-achieving schools at district expense. If the boycott continues in the coming years, the sanctions will grow progressively harsh until Lagunitas enters its fifth year of so-called "program improvement," which could trigger a state takeover.

Lagunitas' challenge to No Child Left Behind illustrates the dynamics of a bitter struggle between state and federal education officials over parents' rights to exempt their children from standardized tests...In the highly charged debate over No Child Left Behind, Lagunitas' steadfast resistance is unusual because it is largely defined in philosophical terms, rather than financial... The Lagunitas School District is plotting its own retreat. On Tuesday, the board is tentatively scheduled to vote on a measure that would forfeit about $95,000 annually in federal funds for special education and achievement programs to avoid penalties under No Child Left Behind...But the district won't be off the hook. In accepting federal money, California has made all its public schools subject to the terms of No Child Left Behind. That means Lagunitas - even if it refuses federal funding - still would have to comply with the No Child law by ensuring it has qualified teachers and that test results are made public according to students' ethnicity and income bracket...

"The school district uses a lot of alternative measurements, and we find that it is a much better indicator of students' progress than a gross generalization," said Stephanie O'Brien, a Lagunitas school trustee who authored the proposal to refuse federal funding, and whose first-grade son will opt out of his first round of state tests next year. "I can't imagine the community would say we really want that (federal) money so we'll put up with this bull---- from the federal government..."

... Nationwide, it is uncommon for school districts to forgo federal money to avoid No Child sanctions...

The districts that have refused federal funds are populated by relatively wealthy parents who can pad school budgets with donations, Jennings said.

"Generally, it's better-educated, affluent parents who tend to protest against this type of thing," he said. "They are generally the ones that are familiar with the law that do not like standardized testing like this..."

This is exactly what we need to see more of, "relatively wealthy parents" to protest intead of enrolling their kids in private or charter schools as so many currently do.

1 comment:

1citizen said...

I agree that this is what we need more of. More relatively wealthy parents to become unwittingly motivated by fuzzy-headed contructivist teachers/administrators to perpetuate their failed curricula.
At least it may help to narrow that edu-gap between the haves and have-nots by dumbing down the haves.