Santa Barbara News-Press, 3/9/05

S.B. Elementary District Likely to Face Sanctions


The Santa Barbara elementary school district is among the 18 percent of districts throughout California expected to face sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act, officials announced Tuesday.

This means the district, starting in the fall, would be stripped of its ability to provide before- and after-school tutoring to low-income students, said Bill Padia, director of policy and evaluation with the California Department of Education.

Instead, the district would have to give the federal dollars it receives for such services to private tutors.

As it is, most low-income students receive before- and after-school tutoring from teachers employed by the district.

The only other school district in Santa Barbara County to be named was Santa Maria-Bonita elementary.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 basically aims to get all lower-achieving students over the same ascending hurdle. It applies to both individual schools and entire school districts. In Santa Barbara, one of 13 elementary schools -- McKinley -- and two of four junior high schools -- La Cumbre and Santa Barbara -- have been sanctioned. This means, at the very least, the schools have been forced to tell parents they can send their children to higher-performing schools, with the district picking up the transportation tab.

The law requires that a certain percentage of students in every sub-group -- such as students with disabilities, the poor and English-language learners -- score "proficient" in both reading and math.

The Santa Barbara elementary district missed the mark with its students with disabilities, Mr. Padia said.

"This is yet another example of how No Child Left Behind is blatantly unfair," Interim Superintendent Brian Sarvis said. "If students were proficient, they would not be students with disabilities."

In California, "proficient" translates into above the national grade level.

If at least one of the subgroups misses the proficiency bar for two consecutive years, individual schools or entire districts face sanctions.

The bar varies depending on the subject matter and grade level. For instance, California's elementary reading bar was set at 13.6 percent last year. The math bar was 16 percent. As the law is written, by 2014, the bar by all accounts will be set at 100 percent.

The law is widely criticized in California and several other states for failing to reward improvement.

"If it remains as it is, over time every district will be in Program Improvement," Mr. Padia said.

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