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72 schools face sanctions--Campuses didn't meet federal academic marks

Seventy-two San Diego County schools face stiff sanctions for failing to meet new federal academic standards that include allowing students to attend a higher-performing campus and paying for transportation to get there.

Seventy-two San Diego County schools face stiff sanctions for failing to meet new federal academic standards that include allowing students to attend a higher-performing campus and paying for transportation to get there.

The report released yesterday by the California Department of Education provides an updated list of schools facing penalties as part of President Bush's school reform initiative signed into law in 2001. To comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, all schools are expected to meet annual achievement targets, but only those that receive federal anti-poverty money are penalized for falling short of the goals.
Each year a school remains on academic probation, the federal government metes out more sanctions that range from requiring the school to offer free tutoring to removing staff and, in the most extreme cases, state takeover.

List of Schools Facing Sanctions
Each year the achievement bar is raised for all schools, and by 2014 all students are expected to show mastery of English and math.

San Diego Unified, the largest district in the county, has the most schools, 33, on the list of campuses needing improvement. But only 692 of 39,000 eligible students in the district requested transfers.

King Elementary School in San Diego's Stockton neighborhood has spent three years on the federal list.

The district has been working to redeem the school for several years, hiring a new principal, training staff and extending the school day and school year for the lowest performing students.

Vista Unified had four schools on the list and about a dozen student transfers out of more than 3,500 eligible students.

Some of the school reforms required by the federal law have helped boost student performance.

In Chula Vista Elementary School District, eight schools were ordered to correct deficiencies, including Loma Verde Elementary. The campus met its targets last school year after missing them two years in a row. To shape up, the staff poured over test scores to spot weak areas and improve them. Teachers also provided extra reading, writing and math support to the neediest children.

"But what helped us most of all was getting everyone to buy into the fact and believe that the children could do it to believe that they could achieve at higher levels," said Principal Sandra Villegas-Duvanich.

Although Loma Verde made improvement, to be removed from the federal list it must meet the academic targets for two consecutive years.

Statewide, about 1,200 schools are on the list, and they must send letters to parents advising them of their choices.

To meet the federal standards, high schools are expected to increase graduation rates annually; at least 95 percent of all students must be tested annually; and each year a specified number of students must demonstrate proficiency in English and math on statewide tests.

Nationally, only 2 percent of eligible children have taken advantage of the option to attend another campus this school year, according to the Center on Education Policy, a Washington D.C.-based research organization. However, a larger number of students have requested tutoring and other supplemental services.

"Parents are generally pleased with their neighborhood school," said Diane Rentner, deputy director of the center. "They may want to keep their kids near home where their friends are, rather than busing them way across town."

Over the last year, the California Department of Education has released other lists of schools that need improvement and face sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act. But erroneous data prompted the department to release an updated list yesterday. Appeals are pending on approximately 150 schools, whose status could change.

Although California has complied with the federal law, some states and school districts are resisting the government sanctions.

Locally, the Escondido Union School District redirected about $200,000 in federal funding for low-income students at Hidden Valley and Del Dios middle schools to other campuses opting the two schools out of No Child Left Behind. Superintendent Mike Caston said it would be too expensive to transport students elsewhere and to add portable classrooms to another full middle school. The schools remain on the list, but the district expects them to be removed in the near future.

Across the country, some states have challenged the initiative, contending it infringes on local control and is too costly and time-consuming to implement.

Utah lawmakers are deciding whether to forgo $103 million in federal funding for poor students so that the state will no longer have to participate in the federal program. A bill that proposes to reject the money was recently approved by the House education committee.

For more information, visit the state Department of Education Web site, www.cde.ca.gov. Sherry Parmet: (760) 476-8238; sherry.parmet@uniontrib.com

— Sherry Parmet
72 schools face sanctions in San Diego


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