Talking Points and Q&A for Superintendents and School Boards
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Note: When speaking with parents, community leaders and the media, remember that there are no "failing schools." This is NOT official language being used by anyone at the state or federal level and every effort needs to be made to correct use of that language by other educators, members of the media, community leaders, parents, etc. The schools "on the list" are those "in need of improvement" or are "under-performing."
“It is important to note the law does not use the term 'failing' schools," according to Rod Paige, Secretary of Education. "In some cases, schools identified as 'in need of improvement' may, in fact, be succeeding in some measures," he said. "What's important is that we know these schools are capable of getting better results for their students."
What you should know about your district’s results:
· Exactly which (if any) Title I school buildings in your district are on the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) list of schools needing improvement.
· How many years in a row each building did not make AYP.
· What required actions are necessary for schools that don’t make AYP?
· A general knowledge of current school improvement initiatives going on at each school building on the “needs improvement” list.
· A list of strengths for each school building on the “needs improvement” list.
The following are points you can make with parents, community leaders and media:
· NCLB calls for universal high performance on achievement tests for all students.
· Every state is required to define its own proficiency standards and AYP targets within strict parameters approved by the federal government.
· Some states that have been in violation of previous federal regulations may not have any schools on the AYP list of schools needing improvement.
· AYP is measured based on the progress of schools and districts, along with the progress of subgroups of students. If any subgroup in a school does not meet AYP target goals, the school will not make AYP.
· As with any new legislation that is sweeping and complex, it will take a couple of years to fully understand what schools must do to comply.
· We are certain in future years; adjustments will be made to NCLB to improve aspects of the law, since a lot of the details remain unclear at this time.
· We accept and acknowledge that AYP reports are one more added source of information to help schools improve.
· We’ll factor the AYP report along with other achievement information into our existing school improvement process to ensure all of our schools are providing the best possible education for our children.
· We need good state policy and full funding to help schools meet AYP. We need to seek solutions to help schools reach the students who are hardest to educate.
· We have a local plan for our buildings, district (and BOCES) to meet the challenges of No Child Left Behind.
· We need the state and federal government to realize that mandates without resources make reforms difficult to achieve. Schools that need improvement also need additional resources.
· We invite the media, our parents and the community to come in and see what our students are learning. And, we encourage them to work with us as we continually improve our schools.
Talking with the Media
Members of the media are eagerly awaiting the release of AYP. The media will most likely contact school districts with a very high number of school buildings on the AYP list of schools needing improvement, or they will contact school districts with very few or no buildings on the list. The reports will contain easy to reproduce lists of "winners" and "losers."
It will be most effective if you appoint one district spokesperson to handle all media calls on AYP at the district level (i.e. the superintendent, district communications director, board president). Principals should field individual school questions. If you are the spokesperson, talk to reporters when they call. Remember they are just doing their jobs. Use this as an opportunity to educate the media and your community about the opportunities and challenges NCLB presents. Keep your comments positive. Avoid making excuses, self-serving responses and comparisons to others. Avoid making district comparisons. (Don’t brag if you make AYP.)
Questions and answers for media interviews
The following are questions you may anticipate from the media and suggested some possible answers.
Q: Why does your school district have __ number of buildings on the list when X school district has none/many? Why did your school district do so much better/worse than that other school district?
A: I only have first-hand knowledge of my own school district and don’t know about (fill in school name).
Q: How have your parents reacted to the AYP report that lists several of your buildings as needing improvement?
A: Our parents have always been concerned about student growth and learning, even before the AYP report was issued. We continue to welcome their input and questions. We count on them to continue their support and involvement. It’s a critical part of our improvement process.
Q: Your school district has no buildings on the AYP list of schools needing improvement. Why are you doing so much better?
A: Every district faces its own unique issues and challenges. Our district is really not that different from any other public school district in the way that we all work hard to do the very best we can for all children.
Q: What changes will you be making as a result of the AYP report?
A: Provide an overview of current and planned initiatives noting that improvement strategies have already been underway. Bring out strengths: "Our district has been heavily involved with school improvement strategies and that focus will become even stronger within school buildings that did not meet AYP targets."
Q: How will you respond to parents who want to know why your buildings need improvement?
A: NCLB requires Colorado schools to meet up to 50 different reading and math goals for students in grades 3 through 12 in order to meet AYP. All students, including nine different subgroups of students, must be proficient in reading and math by the 2013-14 school year. If even one group does not meet the AYP target goals, the school will not make AYP. We are already taking measures to improve; however, our students are more than "test scores." We evaluate our students in all sorts of ways beyond the state tests including student projects, oral assessments and observations. We are proud of the many accomplishments and successes our students have achieved.
Q: Will you be making any staff changes as a result of this rating?
A: Every school year, we base our staffing decisions on student needs, budget issues, and a variety of data we have gathered. That process will not change.
Q: Your district just passed a large (bond measure/mill levy override). What will you say to your community now that you have schools in need of improvement?
A: We recognize we have (a) school building(s) in need of improvement based on AYP criteria. We also know that (technology improvements, better heating and ventilation systems, new state-of-the-art classrooms, more funds directed to the classroom) will have a positive impact on student achievement. The community’s funding for this measure is a critical part of our improvement process.
Q: Because your school building(s) has (have) not met AYP targets for 4(5) years in a row, which corrective actions will you be forced to take?
A: Clearly the law requires us to take action, but we will not "react." We will look carefully at each of our options within the required time frame. We will choose the action that best serves our children and is the right choice for each building.
Q: We’ve spoken to officials in other districts that plan to take ____ action as a result of the AYP requirements for schools in need of improvement. Do you plan to do this, too?
A: We know every district will continue to take action to improve student achievement in ways that best serve the needs of their children. We too will determine what actions will be best for our children within the required time frame.