Elementary school district to drop Title I

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

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.


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Posted by Know-It-All
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 12, 2011 at 1:30 pm

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (Pub.L. 89-10, 79 Stat. 27, 20 U.S.C. ch.70), is a United States federal statute enacted April 11, 1965. It was passed as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's "War on Poverty" and has been the most far-reaching federal legislation affecting education ever passed by Congress. [Web Link]

Sections of the Original 1965 Law

Title I—Financial Assistance To Local Educational Agencies For The Education Of Children Of Low-Income Families
Title II—School Library Resources, Textbooks, and other Instructional Materials
Title III—Supplementary Educational Centers and Services
Title IV—Educational Research And Training
Title V—Grants To Strengthen State Departments Of Education
Title VI—General Provisions

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Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm

You just knew they would refuse the Title I funds once the got some of that Shoreline money. I hope they'll have something solid to show for the extra $2.2 million for the next 3 years.

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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Here here for Mr. Goldman in looking at the overall picture for our district!

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Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 12, 2011 at 3:19 pm

It makes me sad to hear our schools will drop Title 1, not because of the money, or even because of NCLB (which will be revised when it's renewed by Congress). It makes me sad because it sends the message that it's impossible to meet their targets for at risk groups. If the list of schools below can do it, I feel inspired that we can too (isn't mentality what makes us the Silicon Valley)! After all NCLB doesn't mean every child must meet targets, it means each subgroup must meet them, and here are schools serving the same subgroups and soaring beyond those targets.

Think College Now:
Web Link

Yes Prep:
Web Link

UnCommon Schools:
Web Link

KIPP Team Academy:
Web Link

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Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Can't forget the local elementary school Rocketship:
Web Link

From their site:
Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary (RMS) earned an Academic Performance Index (API) score of 925, for the second consecutive year, the same score earned by Palo Alto School District , a neighboring community with a more affluent demographic.

Rocketship Sì Se Puede Academy (RSSP) earned an API score of 886 in its first year of operation. The school was the top school of all new elementary schools in California which opened in the fall of 2009, serving low-income populations of student.

Both Rocketship schools placed in the #5 and #15 positions, respectively, for all California schools with similar low-income populations of students (e.g., >70% qualify for free/reduced meals).

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm

@Christopher: But even the great schools you mention will be hit with penalties by 2014, that's the point. No school can achieve 100% proficiency in all groups all year. Also, don't forget that the schools you mention are charters. While they are public, they have a more self-selecting population than your average low-income public school. The parents at most of them specifically choose that school. They can probably more easily expel (or invite to leave) students who do not meet whatever agreed-upon standards the school have. I have read that quite a few charters, especially at the HS level, lose a lot of kids who don't cut the mustard academically or behaviorally, and they go back to their regular public school. They don't count as dropouts, so they don't affect the charter's graduation rates; and since they are keeping the cream of the crop, it makes sense that their scores are higher. But again, self-selecting population.

Some schools, like Kipp, have a model (all day until 5:00 pm; half day on Saturday) that would be very difficult for a traditional public school to implement for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that there's too diverse a parent population -- you couldn't get everyone on board with it. Also, I would guess that some of these schools have few to no special-ed students. I believe that under NCLB, even the special ed students are expected to score 100% proficient.

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Posted by MVWSD Watchdog
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Wait a minute. I thought our last rock star Superintendent Ghysels had turned the district around with all that Continuous Improvement nonsense. You know, the guy with all "the vision", "focused action" and take-your-breath-away decisions and leadership style! Program Improvement? Say it ain't so! Now they all blame the low-income and special ed students for the problem! Perfect!

You want to know where all the money in the district really goes. Check out the Public Employee Salaries Database 2010 for irregularities for a start.

According to the Public Employee Salaries Database 2010, Ghsyels arranged to pay Mizell $116,428 as principal before he left. Mizell had three years experience as a principal. That's the second highest salary for an elementary school principal in MVWSD. The highest was $117,229 for an elementary principal with two decades experience as principal.

According to the Public Employee Salaries Database 2010, Ghysels made sure the highest paid teacher in MVWSD in 2010 was the controversial Patricia Polifrone who never worked a day in the district. Polifrone was reported to have resigned from the district back in 2009 by Stephanie Totter, director of administrative services. However, Polifrone grossed $112,500 in 2010 suggesting that she was actually bought out by the school district. The amount far surpasses the salary of the highest paid teacher in the district who actually taught in 2010. The true cost of the buyout remains a mystery, but such is the price for poor personnel administration of teachers in the district and the even poorer practices of documenting parent complaints. The as-of-yet-undetermined total amount of money used to buy out Polifrone could have been put to good use in the classroom. Hopefully, the new superintendent takes effective steps to put an end to costly and poorly managed personnel policies and practices in the district in the future. This is what the Public Employee Salaries Database 2010 was designed to do; to reveal the waste taking place everyday in public organizations.

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Posted by district mom
a resident of Willowgate
on May 12, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Ghsyels failed this district and the children.

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Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 12, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Parent from Waverly Park, thank you for the thoughtful response. Everything you said is true, there are certainly clear differences between charters and traditional schools. There are certainly many horrible charters too. Included in one of those differences however is that charters listed earlier have strong professional learning communities and cutting edge instructional practices as illustrated in Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion. What I envy most from them is their unwavering high expectations. It's not the charter I like, it's 'how some of them work' I think could be worthy of discussion in our community.

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Posted by chris
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2011 at 9:15 am

The Title I money could have been used to help low-income students succeed. Yes, it might be trouble to deal with the requirements of Title I, but if the kids are getting access to additional help or better services because of the money, I do not see why the district would not take it.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Another issue I recall from my days as an MVWSD parent was that Title I money didn't follow the child -- it had stupid requirements even without NCLB. As I recall, the district got a certain amount of money based on the percentage of low-income students in the district, but they could distributed it only to schools where the percentage of low-income kids IN THAT SCHOOL were equal to or greater than the district's percentage. Something like that -- anyway, it ended up meaning that low-income kids in Bubb, Huff & Graham never got any Title I funds. At least one year that I remember, Monta Loma got no Title I funds because they had something like 47% low-income kids -- and the magic number was 48% or 50%, or some such. So the Title I money that should have gone to help those kids, and the low-income kids in Bubb, Huff & Graham, all went to Theueurkauf, Castro, Landels, & Crittenden. Those schools certainly needed the funds, but Landels and Monta Loma especially are generally so close in percentages of Title I kids, that is was just stupid that Monta Loma got no funds that year. Flawed.

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Posted by mvparent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 14, 2011 at 12:37 am

Rather than turning down this money for fear of what Goldman called a "segregating effect" why not offer new programs at the low-income schools that are attractive to families from the entire community??

Castro's Dual-immersion program is a good example of something that attracts a wide variety of families from all over town to a school that otherwise based on neighborhood boundaries would be highly segregated and very high % low-income.

Let's get creative rather than turn down much-needed funding at a time when our state budget is threatening deeper cuts to K-12 education.

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Posted by Mike Kelly
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2011 at 3:52 am

My hat is off to Craig for quitting "drinking the Koolaide"

He gained my respect for leading Huff. And still impresses me. He has always struck me as a rather insightful person and should serve you well.

Mike Kelly
Former WSD Trustee

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm

The leadership of Huff is absolutely no indication of how Goldman can lead a district with significant Title I kids. Huff has always had the highest API (Affluent Parent Index = APE average parent eduction) of the District. It was never a Title I school! Craig's number sense is far off for the case of Theurekouf, the 'subgroup' underperforming in that case is the largest fraction of the school, and the requirement in the last, current, and next year is NOT YET 100% proficiency.
I hope the Board did not hire a superintendent who will just "wimp out" on the major challenge of this District. Mrs. Morehead working on math - and others at Theurekouf who are working on "creative" ideas (mvparent) will need all the support from the central office, including $, that they can get!
* see last Theurekouf benchmark math improvement report to the MVWSD board.

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Posted by Sarah Krajewski
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 18, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I believe that the decision to drop Title one next year was made thoughtfully and for good reasons. Within the next two years virtually all Title One schools in the state will be in program improvement, as the goal of 100 percent proficiency for all subgroups within a school every year is not reasonable.
Parents at Program Improvement schools have the right to request that their children be transferred to other schools. Therefore, I suppose that within a couple of years (assuming the law is not changed and the district continued to accept Title One money), all the students in the district would have the right to request Huff, Bubb, and Stevenson Elementary Schools and Graham Middle School. These schools would become overcrowded and lose their sense of community. The district would spend all of the funds it received on transportation and portable classrooms, not on instruction.
Students at the traditionally high achieving schools would lose out due to overcrowding while students at the lower achieving schools would also lose out as their school communities shrank and became less diverse. This situation would be bad for all the students and teachers in the district.
My husband and I have chosen to keep our daughter, who will be a third grader next year, and to enroll our son, who will be a kindergartener next year, at our neighborhood school Monta Loma. Our daughter is thriving academically at the school as well as benefitting from a friendly, diverse community and we expect that our son will do the same.
The Mountain View Whisman school district motto is, "Education for the world ahead." We are confident that our children's early exposure to the diversity of our community will prepare them well for the future as well as enriching their lives now.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 19, 2011 at 6:36 am

Thoughtfully made was the decision for your unique child to have a neighborhood school as you make clear. Your child gains from the low-income diversity, while the low-income diverse children get what exactly? The privilege to sit next to your child while she learns and they don't? Title I funds are not designated for a school, but rather a segment of the student population. The problem here is that the teaching strategies and resources applied have not been working. There are many districts that have figured out how to make it work, but they are not ones that foolishly adopted a flawed corporate model of Continuous Improvement implemented by the last scoundrel of a superintendent for the last five years wasting valuable time. The standards described as "realistic" in the article are actually basic--basic competency at grade level. So the solution is to offer below standard curriculum. What's the point? They will never graduate in the long run.

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Posted by Sarah Krajewski
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm

In fact, Observer, Monta Loma's test scores for most subgroups including second language learners and low income students have been rising for the past few years. If I remember correctly (and I have studied the data rather carefully), second language learners are doing better at Monta Loma than they are at Bubb.
Is there a huge amount to do at the schools? Yes. Is there room for improvement in instruction? Yes. (I hope that the Google grant to improve math education works well.)
Do I worry about equity issues at the schools? Yes.
Do I wish that Title One funds could be taken without causing absolute chaos in the district and the end of neighborhood schools? Of course.
But we have to live with the situation we face not the situation we wish we had.
I hope that NCLB is modified well and soon.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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