NCLB letters in the mail

Published 10:43 pm Thursday, August 20, 2009

A letter sent to parents of students at Mount Zion, Mack Benn and Elephant’s Fork elementary schools on Thursday outlines the process of transferring their children to a different school.

For the second year in a row, these three elementary schools did not meet the “Adequate Yearly Progress” standards spelled out in the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Since the schools did not meet the mark, they are subject to several sanctions, including allowing parents the choice to switch schools.

In his letter to parents, Liverman said the schools’ failure to make AYP was not an adequate reflection of their potential.

“Please know that many good schools across Virginia have not made AYP,” Liverman wrote. “That doesn’t mean they’re not successful. AYP is an all-or-nothing proposition, but student achievement is not.”

In the letter, parents were told they could choose to transfer their children to either Booker T. Washington or Kilby Shores elementary schools. Suffolk Public Schools Public Information Officer Bethanne Bradshaw said those two schools were selected because they met the AYP standards, have room for more students and are in adjoining school zones.

Parents who want to transfer their children must return their Public School Choice Option forms to the school administrative offices by Aug. 31. Parents can choose which school they would prefer their child to attend, but Bradshaw said there is no guarantee parents will get their preference. If parents do not want their children to transfer, they do not have to do anything.

In fact, principals for at least two of the three schools included letters of their own in the packets, in which they strongly encouraged parents not to move their children.

“Mt. Zion is a great school with a dedicated, hardworking staff, helpful parents, supportive business partners and terrific students, and we hope that NO ONE will want to choose another school,” stated a form letter signed by Principal Fran Barnes. A similar letter was sent from Mack Benn Jr. Elementary. “Our MZ school family is a strong group, and we hope each member will stay with us.”

For both Mount Zion and Mack Benn Jr., this is the second year the AYP goals have not been met.

This is the third year out of four that Elephant’s Fork Elementary School did not meet the AYP standards, which means parents were eligible to transfer their children from that school last year, as well. Bradshaw said six families did so. This year, the school also must offer more tutoring and supplemental education services.

Bradshaw said many educators question the idea of mandating a transfer option before more tutoring programs.

“We follow the federal requirements, but educators across the nation have voiced concern that the order of the sanctions would make more sense reversed — to offer supplemental education services (tutoring) in Year One and then public school choice in Year Two,” she said.