Mountain View Voice

News - May 13, 2011

Elementary school district to drop Title I

$450,000 in federal funds not worth the penalties, superintendent says

by Nick Veronin

The Mountain View Whisman School District has decided not to accept Title I federal funding next year. Taking the money would put certain district schools between a rock and a hard place — requiring them to meet unrealistic standards or else face unfair penalties, said Superintendent Craig Goldman.

"Basically schools are penalized for having a large percentage of low-income kids if they choose to accept federal money to help those kids," Goldman said, explaining the Catch-22 of Title I funding.

Five schools in the district currently accept Title I funds — Landels, Castro, Monta Loma, Theuerkauf and Crittenden.

By giving up Title I, the district will lose $450,000, about 1 percent of its operating budget. Though it may not sound like much, it is still money, Goldman said. "But in light of the alternatives, it's the right thing to do."

The first of 10 "titles," or sections, within the no Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the purpose of Title I, according to the language of the bill, is "to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments."

However, when crafting the rules governing Title I, legislators made some rather significant oversights — chief among them, according to Goldman, "is that it ties penalties to impossible goals."

Under No Child Left Behind — or NCLB, as it is commonly called — schools that accept Title I funds must meet continually rising proficiency standards, which are measured by state standardized tests, such as California's STAR exam. By the 2013-14 school year, all Title I schools will be expected to have a proficiency score of 100 percent in all subjects and in all statistically significant sub-groups, or else they will face penalties, such as being classified as a "program improvement" school.

To expect that every sub-group within a school — especially traditionally low performing sub-groups, such as low-income students and special education students — would be able to consistently attain 100 percent proficiency is unrealistic, Goldman said, noting that just about everyone in the field of public education agrees. "Everybody knew in the long term that it would have to change," he said.

It would seem that Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of education, along with the Obama administration, recognize that need for change and are making steps to amend NCLB. In preparing to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, the Department of Education has released an official report explaining how the legislation will be revamped to address criticisms such as Goldman's.

"NCLB has many flaws," says the report, "A Blueprint for Reform." "It provides states with incentives to lower standards. It mislabels schools as failing and imposes one size fits all interventions. It doesn't do enough to recognize student growth or school progress."

According to Goldman, many schools within his district have been unfairly categorized as failures because of the faulty legislation. Theuerkauf and Monta Loma are in what is known as "program improvement" this year. But that is because low-income, English-learners at Theuerkauf and special education students at Monta Loma — all of whom traditionally perform below grade level — did not meet the proficiency standards at those schools.

The designation, besides putting the schools at risk of losing out on Title I funds, also has what Goldman called a "segregating effect."

Under the NCLB law, parents have the option of moving their students out of "program improvement" schools to another school within the district. "The families who have chosen to transfer are not typically the ones who are the basis for the program improvement identification," he said.

Consequently schools that are slapped with the program improvement label often end up with greater proportions of low-income, English-learners and special education kids.

The movement of students adds to transportation costs, as bus routes are altered or new special routes are created, Goldman said. It also forces the district to reallocate resources, which is costly and can cause confusion.

Goldman said that his district believes that at its core NCLB was intended to produce positive results. "Accountability is a good thing," he said. "Continuous improvement is a good thing as far as we're concerned."

But considering the difficulties that have arisen from taking the funding, it simply isn't worth it, Goldman said.

Fortunately, the decision to accept Title I funds is made on an annual basis, Goldman said, and if the Obama administration along with the Department of Education make appropriate changes to the legislation, Mountain View Whisman can start accepting funds again in 2012-13.

Comments

Posted by greghume, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 13, 2011 at 9:05 am

This was a very useful and well-written article on an important decision. Thank you.


Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Agreed. Good article.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Castro City
on May 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm

While I appreciate Craig Goldman's stance of not condoning segregation, I think there are schools that have been, and continue to be segregated in the MVWSD. In the English Only strand of Castro Elementary, there is almost a 100% low SES, 100% ELL community. Because Castro also has a dual immersion program which is double the size of the English Only program, on paper the school looks integrated. This is not the case. If one were to go inside any of the English only classrooms at Castro, one would most certainly see a classroom that is de facto segregated.

In not taking this money, I would really appreciate if Craig Goldman and other administrators developed a systematic way of reintegrating these schools. (This would also include creating incentives for schools such as Castro that attract non-low SES. non-Latino families.) I know that it is not wholly an administrative decision that needs to be made, but also an education of those families opting out of schools like Monta Loma, Theurakaft, and Castro. That is--We, as a community, must emphasize the value of learning in a diverse setting given the changing composition of America. Also, we should emphasize the negative effects involved in voluntary segregating. I do feel that if the Administration could develop attractive incentives at these schools ( for example, lower class size, guaranteed non combination classrooms, or state of the art technology) This would probably help attract a more diverse student population


Posted by Ron, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Let me see if I understand what this article says:

(1) Mr. Goldman says that students in low income families are not as smart as those with regular income.
(2) The schools in his district are not able to meet state and federal requirements for excellence in schools.
(3) He knows in advance, without even trying that the schools will fail to meet the requirements. Can you say "self-sustaining premise?"
(4) Smarter students who are able to pass the tests will be forced to stay in the worst schools in the district even though the law allows them to transfer to the better schools.
(5) He is foregoing the money that would allow the employment of better teachers that might raise the standards of the schools.

I cannot believe that Ted Kennedy, the Lion of the Senate, could have worked on a bill that had "impossible" goals.

Perhaps it would be useful to know what other school districts are voluntarily giving up their Title I funds.



Posted by localmom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Giving away nearly HALF A MILLION DOLLARS in funding per year, intended for the most needy children with the LEAST amount of family support in the LOWEST performing schools is a disgrace. It is unethical. There not WORDS to describe how I feel about this. All I can say is, SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!!
Bubb and Huff will retain the same funding, the low performing schools will each lose nearly $100,000 per year, with NO HOPE Of replacing these funds. This has NOTHING to do with segregation, that is purely and simply an excuse for failure. I hope there is still time for Mr. Goldman to reverse his decision. In any case, this should most definitely be reported to the State and County school board. I hate to use the "R" word, but only schools with predominantly Latino kids will lose money, and LOTS OF IT.


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields