2 struggling schools face more changes
Arizona Republic
Feb. 13, 2008


Ray Parker

Educators at two west Mesa junior high schools are under pressure to produce higher scores on state tests in April, but few parents have taken advantage of free private tutoring for their children.

The principals at the schools say they've implemented many of the changes required under federal guidelines and fear more changes will only hurt students.

Administrators at Tuesday's school board meeting outlined how they are preparing students for the upcoming testing, which will be harder than in previous years.

Carson and Powell junior highs, which receive federal Title I high-poverty funding, have failed for the third year in a row to make adequate yearly progress according to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

That means sanctions could be even stricter next year, including replacing the principals, overhauling curriculum or extending the school year.

School leaders groused at the idea of further sanctions because the schools have already undergone many changes.

Carson Principal Ray Mercado, in his first year at the school, said he has 25 new teachers this year who have identified students who need extra help, such as those learning English.

Powell Principal Nancy Roberts said she and her staff have set up summer school for 240 students; extended the school day for tutoring; and are holding parent classes on the importance of testing.

With the complicated rules - only low-income seventh- and eighth graders are eligible for free tutoring and any student can apply to transfer out of the underperforming school - sanctions have not been a big topic of discussion among parents, said Bob Fleischmann, the district's director of Title 1.

"It's so new that parents don't quite know what to make of it," he said.

"In several schools, they missed making adequate yearly progress because just one student (did not show up for testing)," he added.

Federal rules require school districts to offer to transfer children to a school that is not listed as "failing" by state-imposed standards under federal law. They also mandate free tutoring through private companies for students at failing schools. So far, there have been few takers for either option, according to the district, which said just seven students have taken advantage of the tutoring.