An August 16, 2002 letter from Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education, has provided further interpretation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Prior to receiving this letter, education officials in West Virginia, as well as in other states, interpreted the law to say that a school in “school improvement” status under the act could delay any sanctions when the school made one year of adequate progress.
In order to meet state standards, a minimum of 50 percent of the school’s students in grades 3 through 11 at or above the 3rd quartile in total basic skills; and no more than 15 percent of the students perform within the 1st quartile. Secretary Paige’s letter relates to public schools that do not meet state standards for two consecutive years but make adequate yearly progress according to spring 2002 assessment results. His interpretation states that the “delay” provision of the statute does not excuse a school on improvement status as of January 7, 2002 that makes adequate yearly progress on the basis of 2001-2002 assessment results from providing public school choice at the beginning of the 2002-2003 school year.
Six schools in West Virginia are affected by this interpretation even though each of these schools made tremendous progress in student achievement as reflected by the spring 2002 assessment. The six schools include: West Middle in Cabell County; Lizemore Elementary in Clay County; John Cornwell Elementary in Hampshire County; Weimer Elementary in Kanawha County; Birch River Elementary in Nicholas County; and Stratton Elementary in Raleigh County.
These six schools will no longer be required to offer school choice if Spring 2003 testing indicates that state standards have been met. However, if these schools do not meet state standards the schools must continue to offer school choice and, in addition, will be required to provide supplemental tutoring services for the school’s most at-risk students.
“The question that Secretary Paige addressed in the August 16 letter deals with those schools who, for two consecutive years, did not meet state standards. However, because of the hard work of teachers and principals at these specific schools, spring testing results for 2001-2002 indicated that these same schools made adequate yearly progress,” said David Stewart, State Superintendent of Schools. “The West Virginia Department of Education has confidence that the staff in each of these schools will continue to focus on meeting state standards for the upcoming school year.”
Parents at each of the six schools will receive notification that their child(ren) can remain in the school while improvement efforts continue or transfer to another school that is not on improvement status. The law states that students may transfer to another school in the county that is not designated as an improvement school. The county superintendent will designate parental choice of at least two county schools, if possible, which are in close proximity to each student’s current school.
Upon receiving notification of the receipt of the August 16 letter from Secretary Paige, the State Superintendent of Schools immediately convened a meeting with each superintendent and school principal to share the information and offer technical assistance from the State Department of Education.
“Superintendents will need time to notify parents and make necessary arrangements for school choice. The West Virginia Department of Education staff is dedicated to assisting these counties and schools in this transition as well as with their improvement efforts,” said Dr. Stewart.