School board discusses federal no child left behind guidelines
The Carbon County Board Education viewed a long presentation by the district staff during regular meeting last Wednesday and found that adhering to President George Bush's no child left behind act will not be an easy task, primarily because the program changes as it develops.
"Trying to meet what is wanted from us by the state and the federal government on this program is very difficult," said Patsy Bueno, assistant superintendent of the district. "The whole thing is like trying to hit a moving target."
The act's intent was to keep children in schools from falling behind and getting lost in the public education system.
However, according to the presenters at the school board meeting, intent is often lost when the letter of the law comes into play.
According to Bueno and Superintendent David Armstrong, as the district attempts to follow directives from the state on the measure, changes continue to come in that make what was accomplished in the past irrelevant.
"At one point, we were told most of the elementary teachers in our district did not fit in the highly qualified group of teachers that the program spells out we need, because they did not have direct majors other than their elementary or early childhood certificates," stated Bueno.
"As of Tuesday, that has all changed. Now all those who weren't highly qualified are," noted Bueno.
With the aid of a Powerpoint presentation, Bueno explained how the school district staff members were developing the plan they will use to adhere to the law that was passed last year. In one slide, she pointed out the directives from the state and what has happened with them.
The slide revealed documents from the state in which a number of revisions were shown, some of the changes coming months apart, others less than a few weeks.
The directives on the program varied in size from a little over 70 pages to almost 150.
"With each one of these come changes to what we have already done," said Bueno.
The program is basically set up to compel the district to look at test score data and to drive instruction based upon it, indicated Bueno. However, often test data, particularly on standardized examinations, comes back too late to catch children in the setting the students are in at the time the youth take the exam.
However the problem with the changes and the large amount of information that is coming from the state and the federal government isn't just dogging the district's work team. It is also bothering many of the teachers.
"We are trying to insulate teachers from this mass of information," stated Armstrong. "But there are many frustrations. We have been slowly trying to implement just the basic requirements of the plan."
The main focus of what is being done in the Carbon County School District concentrates on reading, writing and mathematics, added Bueno. She also pointed out that the district has been working to give teachers support on professional development, which is a major part of the federal education program.
"What we are trying to do is to introduce teachers to the big picture," explained Bueno. "So this year, we are concentrating on writing and the use of it in all subject areas they are teaching."
Bueno presented a large document to the board of education members, a copy of what is basically a draft plan for the district's compliance to the federal act. She went through the sections and explained the procedures addressed in the school district's plan.
"Obviously we can't implement all of this at once," said board member Grady McEvoy. "We need to pick and choose the more important things first and focus on those. We need to use the things that help students the most."
The school district's final compliance plan is due at the Utah Board of Education office by the end of the month.
Therefore, the local board of education members will be studying the document and the school district staff will develop the final draft.
During the school board meeting, the education panel also heard from Deon Kone, the school district's maintenance director.
Kone informed the board that the final inspection on the roof at Sally Mauro Elementary was slated for later in the week.
The building was the center of controversy last winter when the roof began to leak and some classes had to be moved to other parts of the school.
Parents of children attending the elementary school in Helper voiced concerns about not only the integrity of the building, but also about the possibility of air quality problems in the facility.
Parents worried that mold might form in walls and above the hanging ceiling in the school.
At the close of class work last spring, a contractor was employed to completely revamp the roof. The inspection last week was to verify the job had been done correctly. That inspection went well.
"We went through the punch list and things looked good," said Kone on Monday morning. "The roof construction is now complete."