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Superintendent Bates addresses "Open Enrollment"

posted Nov 3, 2010, 8:48 AM by Gary Jones

Alturas Elementary School Parents to Receive “Open Enrollment Letters”

As a result of a recent California State Senate Bill, Modoc Joint Unified School District will soon be notifying AES parents of their right to enroll their students, for the 2011-2012 school year, in another elementary school of their choice, in another district, if it has a higher Academic Performance Index (API) score than Alturas Elementary School.  Transportation is not provided.

The Bill requires the state Superintendent of Schools to annually create a list of 1,000 schools, ranked by their API, as “Open Enrollment Schools”.  This list is to contain 687 elementary schools, 165 middle schools, and 148 high schools.  Alturas Elementary School has been placed on the 2011-2012 list based on 2010 STAR test results.  Schools exempt from this list include schools with less than 100 scores to report during testing, Charter Schools, Community Day Schools and Court schools.

This legislation is a result of California’s application for federal “Race to the Top” funding for education.  The intent is to enhance parental choice in education by providing additional options to pupils to enroll in public schools throughout the state without regard to the residence of their parents.  California’s application has been rejected two years in a row, however, the legislation enacted to compete for these funds remains in place.  The Modoc Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees, along with almost half of the school districts in the state, voted to reject signing a Memorandum Of Understanding with the state agreeing to implement “Race to the Top” requirements.  The MJUSD board of trustees, while recognizing they were possibly turning down federal funding, was not happy with the way the state’s application was being rushed through.  The short timelines implemented by the state did not give the district adequate time to: analyze the language, determine the fiscal impact to the district, study the potential impact of mandates, and seek input from the community and employees of the district.  In addition, the amount of funds to be received by MJUSD was not identified.

The “Open Enrollment List” is one of the challenging mandates that have arisen out of California’s failed attempts to secure “Race to the Top” funding.  This list of supposed low performing schools, contains 31 schools who have at least an 800 API (the target API established by the state).  Because of the way the list is developed, all of the schools with 800+ API are Elementary Schools.  The Bill’s language only allows a district to have 10% of its schools on the list.  This political manipulation of the data resulted in schools with strong API scores, like Alturas Elementary school (API 790) to end up on the list.  The highest high school API score on the list is 644.  The highest middle school API score on the list is 711.

For some comparison, Fresno Unified has approximately 62 elementary schools in their district.  Of these 62 schools, 50 have a lower API score than Alturas Elementary School, however, Fresno Unified has (0) elementary schools on the “Open Enrollment” list.  Bakersfield City School District has approximately 32 elementary schools in their district, 26 have a lower API score than Alturas Elementary School.  Bakersfield  City has the same number of elementary schools on the list as Modoc Joint, (1).  San Bernardino City Unified has approximately 43 elementary schools, 35 of their elementary schools have lower API scores than Alturas Elementary.  How many elementary schools does San Bernardino have on the “Open Enrollment List”?  (2)! 

In the past decade, Alturas Elementary School has twice been identified as a “California Distinguished” school.  In 2006, Alturas Elementary School received the State’s recognition as a ‘Title I Achievement” school.  Since 2005, Alturas Elementary School has improved its API from 769 to 790.  I am proud of our schools.  Can we get better? You bet!  Do we look at our testing results and determine areas of improvement? Absolutely!

 “Open Enrollment” illustrates flaws in our accountability model and paints a false picture of school performance to the public.  It would make more sense if the State would; for instance, place all schools below a target API score, like below 650, on the list regardless of whether or not they were elementary, middle, or high schools.  Perhaps with such a list, we could get a better picture of where the State should focus needed improvements.  Be careful, such a list might show what a good job rural school districts are doing educating our youth.

Lane Bates, Superintendent

Modoc Joint Unified School District