Federal funding at risk as schools miss test targets

Monta Loma, Theuerkauf miss state targets, parents transfer students out

A handful of Mountain View elementary schools were forced to do some last-minute shuffling shortly before classes began this fall, as parents sought to transfer students out of two schools that failed to meet state-defined performance targets last year.

The schools' failure to hit those targets, along with the consequences of those failures, have concerned parents and caused school officials to debate whether receiving federal aid -- which is tied to meeting the performance goals -- is worth it.

For two consecutive years, Monta Loma and Theuerkauf elementary schools have failed to hit Annual Yearly Progress, or AYP, goals. The goals are set by the California Department of Education, and are used by federal education officials as a yardstick when evaluating public schools receiving Title I funding under the No Child Left Behind Act.

As such, the two schools went into "Program Improvement" during the 2009-10 year school year. Such schools are required to allow transfer requests from parents who want their children to switch to another school in the district.

Craig Goldman, superintendent of the district, is concerned that parents are getting the wrong idea about Monta Loma and Theuerkauf.

"The No Child Left Behind rules basically identify the entire school as a program improvement school," Goldman said. "There's a false impression that's created that the school is not meeting its overall improvement goals."

This year, Mary Lairon, assistant superintendent of Mountain View Whisman School District, said the district received 70 requests for student transfers, but only 62 kids ended up in a different school.

The district had a little more than a week to move 62 students out of Monta Loma and Theuerkauf and into one of four other schools throughout the district. Parents of students at Monta Loma and Theuerkauf were given 10 days from Aug. 2 to decide if they wished to transfer their children to one of four schools -- Landels, Bubb, Huff or Stevenson.

Comments left on the Voice's Town Square forum were critical of Monta Loma and Theuerkauf, due to the Program Improvement designation.

Lairon, however, defended the schools, noting that Monta Loma only missed its special education AYP goals. In some cases, she said, the special education students at Monta Loma were given the same tests as non-special education students. That's not fair, she said. "By definition, special education kids are lower performing."

Theuerkauf, Lairon said, fell short because its Hispanic and English language learners subgroups -- which are often one and the same -- did not score proficiently in the English-Language Arts AYP category.

"It's very challenging to make it with all your subgroups," Lairon said.

In order to meet AYP goals, all of a given school's subgroups must score proficiently in both AYP categories -- English-Language Arts and mathematics. A subgroup is a "numerically significant" demographic within the student body, and are generally classified by race, socio-economic disadvantages, or by disability.

"It really is a headache, but schools are desperate for money," Lairon said of the requirements to be eligible for Title I funds.

Nonetheless, Lairon said, more and more school districts are dropping out of the Title I program as it becomes harder to meet the rising Annual Yearly Progress targets set by the state. By the 2013-14 school year, the California Department of Education will require that all subgroups achieve 100 percent efficiency in English-Language Arts and Mathematics. Lairon said that is unreasonable.

"The tests aren't written so that students can score 100 percent," she said. "Once it hits 100 percent, no one is going to make it."

Goldman said that this year, he and the district board of trustees would be considering whether continuing to receive Title I funding under No Child Left Behind is worth it for district.

He is particularly concerned that the "false impression" created by the Program Improvement designation may be working to segregate schools.

Lairon said that the parents who ask to have their children transferred are predominantly white and Asian. Hispanic families and low-income families tend not to ask for transfers out of Program Improvement schools, he said.

Program Improvement


Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Sep 2, 2010 at 2:58 pm

The focus this year is Language Arts, I think it would be good if Mr. Veronin volunteered in one or more of the mvwsd schools if he isn't already.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm

We have a Assistant Superintendent on the record saying "it is unreasonable".

No wonder the schools will never improve. There is no expectation from Lairon that it's even possible!

BTW his is the same Lairon that ran Redwood City schools into the ground before moving on to Mountain View when hired by the huckster Ghysels. Look it up if you don't believe it.

The assumption from the district is that schools with high populations of Hispanic and non-English speaking and poor students cannot escape PI. That is patently untrue, wrong and misleading and more an excuse than anything else. Look to some San Francisco schools if you want to see where educators turned schools around. Even Castro school in Mountain View was able to meet the challenge of improving. No mention of that in the article or by those interviewed.

MVWSD needs to be rid of this culture of excuses and blaming the victims.

Like this comment
Posted by Realistic
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 2, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Get rid of the principals to begin with.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 2, 2010 at 9:39 pm

so much ado over nothing. I have personal experience at both Monta Loma and Theuerkauf and I can tell you first hand that the students are improving, the teachers are talented and if parents choose to abandon ship because of the 'status' imposed by an agency that has never set foot on either campus, let alone spoken to anyone directly then go ahead and change schools.

I hope it works for you but my money is on the fact that my kids have continued to score off the charts at these 'failing' schools......they must be doing something right.

Like this comment
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Love the ignorant, uninformed ANONYMOUS personal attacks on a skilled administrator. Cowardly and weak.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 3, 2010 at 9:42 am

Gee eric, I guess that moniker doesn't make you equally anonymous! You would think this article was about how great ALL the children at these schools are doing. I skilled administrator? I would think a skilled administrator would have these schools sorted out by now! I guess Ghysels took all the skill and leadership with him when he left us with now two schools in Program Improvement! Remarkable skill demonstrated there indeed!

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Facts are not excuses; Monta Loma has two Special Day classes and a high number of kids for whom English is their second language. Some kids are barely able to answer a handful of questions, much less a multi-page, several days long test. If a student arrives in our district the week before testing and they don't speak English (whether it is Spanish, French, Mandarin, Tagalog, etc.) they are required to take the test... and inevitably fail. Too many people look at the school's AYP score and make their decision whether the entire school is under-performing or excelling, when if you look closer and break out by subgroup, a broader picture is painted. Kudos to Monta Loma for all the positive changes that they've made in the last few years.

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Sep 4, 2010 at 8:47 am

I think it's very important that the Voice staff spend some time at one or more of the schools, work with the kids, attend some staff/PTA meetings to see what's really going on. I think this would provide a more complete perspective.

Like this comment
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 4, 2010 at 9:09 am

The way NCLB labels a school as underperforming if one or more subgroups aren't performing does not give credit to all the other areas where the schools have made progress. That is hurtful to the staff and students who worked hard and succeeded, yet are labeled otherwise.

Yet No Child Left Behind means "no child left behind" and our schools have a lot we can learn about expectations and strategies from schools where disabilities and English leaner status does not equal lower performance. Take a look at the UnCommon Schools (K-8) for example, 99% of their students are Black and Latino and over 89% score proficient in English-Language Arts and even higher in math.

Link to UnCommon Schools:
Web Link

Link to NY Times Article on Their Strategies:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Arnie
a resident of Whisman Station
on Sep 4, 2010 at 10:36 am

The Voice should also spend time at the school sites with the kids that are failing year after year after year to get a more balanced picture.

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Sep 6, 2010 at 7:13 am

Regarding UnCommon schools, these are Charter schools that are essentially college prep private schools in the public system. MVWSD already implements most of key elements of these schools, include a focus on academic achievement, data-driven instruction, etc.. I expect that UnCommon schools attracts very motivated parents that expect a lot from their kids academically. I expect that kids at UnCommon schools are working a grade or more ahead, and anyone with behavioral/learning problems gets the boot.

Like this comment
Posted by Go Charters
a resident of Castro City
on Sep 6, 2010 at 8:48 am

Charter schools are a great idea. Unfortunately you will find that the board and district administration are the enemies of charter schools, so good luck. Look into Bullis in Los Altos and you'll see how upset the Los Altos district is about it.

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Sep 6, 2010 at 9:34 am

I can see why they don't like charter schools. They're essentially creating private schools with public money, creating a two tier system.

Like this comment
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2010 at 8:20 pm

"Gee eric, I guess that moniker doesn't make you equally anonymous!"
--So, your driver license says "observer"? I'm also not hiding on a message board attacking people. When I dont like what's going on in the schools, I take it up with the appropriate person directly.

"I skilled administrator? I would think a skilled administrator would have these schools sorted out by now!"
-Skilled administrators fighting drastically declining revenue and federal standards based on politicians playing CYA? You're right. They should have it all fixed.

Like this comment
Posted by Just a mom
a resident of Jackson Park
on Sep 7, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I am just curious to know:" how many kids were able to transfer to Huff or Bubb???"
It is sad to know that if you do not own a million dollars house, you have no access to a top scoring school! I know that there is Stevenson, but it is an alternative school, not the right fit for everyone. How fair is that?
Please everyone take a tour of all the schools...Or just compare Huff and Theuerkauf, it is hard to believe that both schools are in the same district! It is not about the students but the teachers! Why top rating schools get the better teachers???

Like this comment
Posted by Thom
a resident of Jackson Park
on Sep 7, 2010 at 3:11 pm

"It is sad to know that if you do not own a million dollars house, you have no access to a top scoring school! I know that there is Stevenson, but it is an alternative school, not the right fit for everyone. How fair is that?"

Interesting you think money gets your child in a better school. Only way that works is if you choose a private school. Then it's your choice. Teachers have too many kids in classes, and they cannot possibly tend to each child one on one. How about parents taking some responsibility and assist in the teaching with your children? But, much like everything else, people look to point fingers.

Don't like who's in charge? Take steps in replacing him or her. Get involved and I don't mean posting your thoughts on MV Voice.

Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 7, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Why ad to an overwhelming sense of frustration with Admin and with Teachers in these failing schools. How damn many excuses can they make ?
Start with electing a new school board with strong conserative leader ship.. Demand improvement, don't "understand" status quo.

Some of it comes back to immigration doesn't it.

Like this comment
Posted by Castro Volunteer
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm

I encourage everyone interested in this topic to volunteer in a school that has a large low-income, English-language-learner population (Thereuekrauf, Monte Loma, or Castro). There are myriad misconceptions. The only way to understand the situation is to see it up close. You will see "improvement" and excellent teaching that the statistics don't reflect, and you will see why further improvement can feel daunting. You will see how much these schools do with so few resources. Finally, you will understand why "No Child Left Behind" has the unintended consequence of handicapping the schools with this type of population. These schools need community volunteers!!!

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 7, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Why not lower class sizes with money from the Shoreline Community District instead of trying to shuffle around student deck chairs?

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 8, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Tough to elect different leadership when no one but incumbents took out papers to run when they were available last week.


City Council, not school board controls Shoreline Community District funds. MVWSD Technology fund for classroom computers and such is provided through the Shoreline funds but that is it. City's own budget troubles have them resisting the idea of sharing more.

Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm


Your comments on education would be more convincing if you could spell. But that must be your teachers' fault.

Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 12, 2010 at 8:12 pm

I'd like to see the Superintendent take a personal responsibility for the two subsets of students in these two schools (Special Ed and ELL)(?) Make it a priority of his first year. It is not acceptable I think to just shrug it off ('let's just give up Title I funds').

A Superintendent needs to be 'walking around' perhaps volunteering in these specific (few) classrooms. Reassignments - selective class size reductions - there is some wiggle room in most collective agreements. Let the teachers union president and Craig get together and see how far they can push the envelope to get more help for these two problem areas.

otherwise - the Board should get directly involved

Like this comment
Posted by Laid Off Teacher
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Awkward situation last year indeed. Goldman is smart to get out ahead of it right away and attempt to close the issue. Good luck to him on cleaning up the rest of the corrupt culture and sense of entitlement at the district office created by Ghsyels.

HOWEVER, AND SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS ONE AWAY: There is still a conflict of interest with ex-Ghysels approving the hiring as a teacher of one of the board members, Higgins, that once supervised his salary, and then had placed in employment at his lover's (Mizell's) school! And when Higgins is laid off with other temporary teachers, she is amazingly one of the first to be hired back! No doubt one of the benefits of public office!

I'm sure it will take more hand wringing from Ms. Totter (former subordinate) to do the right thing and stop hiring and rehiring ex-board members (former supervisors). And of course, Totter received more than a few promotions (more like position title changes) and salary increases under Ghysels/Higgins to do exactly the same job! The playing field is hardly level for other beginning teachers when that occurs! These people never learn.

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