Flickr photo by Adrian Sampson
Successful schools inadvertently labeled as posing a risk of "serious harm" to their students' health, safety or "general welfare," as a result of an emergency declared by the State Board of Education, will get no relief from the state Legislature.
As I noted in a previous post, the State Board of Education has declared an emergency in 1,000 schools identified as among the lowest performing in the state. Students in those schools, for the first time, would have the right to transfer to any other school in the state, and would no longer be confined to schools in their own district.
The only problem is that the list includes dozens of schools that were doing quite well, as a result of an artifact contained in the legislation which established the list. The legislation, SBX5 4, was authored by state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, chair of the Senate education committee.
The legislation specified that no district could have more than 10 percent of its schools on the low performing list. As a result, the list included some schools that scored 800 or higher on the state's Academic Performance Index, such as Fremont Unified's Grimmer Elementary, which scored 801. That makes Grimmer a successful school under the standards established by the state. As Superintendent James Grimmer told Jill Tucker in the San Francisco Chronicle, "It mischaracterizes a school that is doing what the state has asked it to do." He said "all kinds of parents are trying to transfer into that school."
Another school on the list was Pacific Union Elementary in Humboldt County, with an API score of 766. As Humboldt County Superintendent Garry Eagles told the Eureka Times Standard, the school had a "stellar" reputation, and like Fremont's Grimmer Elementary, parents were fighting to enroll their children there.
Robert Wolfe, assistant superintendent for business services in the Menifee Union School District in Riverside County contacted me after my previous post, and pointed out that 48 schools on the list had API scores of 790 or better. Six had scores of 800 or above. One was recently designated a California Distinguished School. Quail Elementary, the one school from his district that made it onto the list, had an API score of 799. Because it was a brand new school, it was the first time it even had a score to report – not a bad one for the first time out of the gates. Hundreds of lower-scoring schools around the state never even made it onto the list. "I wonder who the Legislature was trying to protect when they passed this law," Wolfe wrote.
It was not unreasonable for educators to expect that the Legislature would correct its faulty math, just as any teacher would expect students to do. After all, this is not a mere classroom exercise, but a calculation with consequences in the real world.
But Romero's office tells me that the senator, who will be termed out of the Legislature at the end of this year, will not be introducing any clean-up legislation to fix an obvious flaw in the original bill.
So the declaration of an "emergency" in 1,000 schools, regardless of whether an emergency really exists in all or some of them, remains unchanged, along with the stigma of being on it.