Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/education/0830rooseNCLB0830Z7.html

School-labeling laws confuse parents

The Arizona Republic
Aug. 30, 2003 12:00 AM

Betty Reid
Understanding two education accountability policies turned into a confusing issue for south Phoenix parents when state Department of Education officials tried to translate the federal and state laws to Roosevelt Elementary School District parents and board members.

Those state and federal laws are particularly crucial to children in Roosevelt's 20 schools because nine rank underperforming under the state's requirements.

But the federal No Child Left Behind law applies a different standard to what equals an underperforming school.

State education officials muddied the issue more Tuesday night with a PowerPoint presentation that left Roosevelt parents and board members baffled.

"Out of 100 Roosevelt parents, how many parents know what No Child Left Behind is all about?" asked Ben Miranda, Roosevelt School Board member.

The No Child Left Behind Act became federal law in 2001 and calls for every child to be learning at grade level by 2014. It requires states to label schools as excelling, meeting standards or failing based on standardized test scores.

The Arizona Department of Education recently completed its visits to 15 counties in an attempt to put the two policies, which "look like a puzzle," together, said Ildiko Laczko-Kerr, deputy associate superintendent for research and policy.

Miranda wonders how the two laws can be simplified so a parent understands.

For instance, under the federal law, 13 of Roosevelt's schools would be considered underperformingby the state, although the federal label for that distinction is "improving."

Miranda asked if parents understood that they had the option to enroll their children at a school with a better achievement profile label under the federal guideline.

Only 10 students have switched schools, according to Superintendent Frederick Warren.

Warren said that during the past year principals had received training about the two policies, and they help inform parents. Parents also have been notified about meetings that explain the two policies, Warren said.

But Michael Pops, a parent of a student at J.R. Davis Elementary, said he thinks parents of Roosevelt's 12,000 students are not informed for many reasons.

"The poor parents are in a quagmire," Pops said. "They can't come to the meetings because they are poorly informed; there is no notification from the district, in Spanish or English. And the meeting is not as important as putting food on the table, and nobody riles them."

Many of Roosevelt's students are on the free lunch program and speak Spanish as a first language.

"We have a parent base that is illiterate of the information that they need to have or they have not been properly informed," Pops said.

Reach the reporter at betty.reid@arizonarepublic.com or call (602) 444-8049.