Last updated: July 28. 2013 3:09AM - 3906 Views

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Senate Bill 359, Provision §18-3-12


Editor,


In-Brief: What Senate Bill 359 Means for Public School Students in West Virginia”


The recent passage of Senate Bill 359 has advanced some significant changes for our public schools. Several provisions of the recent education reform legislation will have a direct impact on students.


Understandably, the new bill is generating questions that deserve careful consideration.


At The Education Alliance, we have started a dialogue about how the new law will directly affect students. We are seeking public feedback about the bill. We want to review the public’s ideas and thoughts about key elements of the reform legislation that will significantly effect our students, teachers, and school administration.


Here are some aspects of the bill to consider:


Provision: §18-3-12 – Special Community Development School Pilot Program – affects a neighborhood that is at least seven square miles and that has at least five public schools, including at least one elementary school and one middle school with significant enrollments of disadvantaged, minority, or underachieving students.


What’s New?


This new provision modifies 2010 legislation that authorized the implementation of a five-year pilot program in one school with a significant enrollment of disadvantaged, minority, and underachieving students. However, the program was never funded.


With this new provision, the pilot program remains five years in length but has been expanded to five public schools, including at least one elementary and one middle school in a seven square-mile area. Although the legislation does not specify the pilot program’s location, one area of Kanawha County is the only setting in the state that meets the specified demographic criteria.


The pilot is intended to develop and implement replicable strategies to improve the academic achievement of disadvantaged, minority, and underachieving students. Like the 2010 legislation, this provision has not been funded to date. The Kanawha County superintendent and lead community-based organizations must provide a status report to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability and the West Virginia Board of Education prior to the 2014 legislative session.


West Virginia academic achievement indicators for African American and low-income students lag behind their middle-class peers. As early as third grade, achievement gaps exist between middle-class and poor children and between African American and non-African American children in every subject area. These achievement gaps do not disappear. In 2012, 461 African American seniors took the ACT exam. The majority (74%) were enrolled in what the ACT calls the CORE curriculum (courses considered good preparation for the rigors of college). Surprisingly, the average composite score for African American students enrolled in the CORE curriculum was 17.8; this was lower than the average ACT score for all other ethnic groups not enrolled in the CORE curriculum.


Here are the expected benefits:


• Improved student achievement


• Establishment of a model for other elementary and middle schools that serve minority, disadvantaged, and underachieving students


Questions remain:


• Based on the specified criteria, which schools will be included in the pilot program?


• What types of groups could be considered “lead community-based organizations?”


• How will progress toward improving academic achievement be measured?


• How will the program be funded?


• Who will be responsible for day-to-day program activities?


• How will the program be supervised — at both the state and local levels?


• How will the program’s successes be measured, and how will it be held accountable?


Do you have ideas about these changes? Do your personal experiences or those of your children shape your views on the state’s attempts, as described above, to improve our students’ performance?


Please contact us at info@educationalliance.org to let us know your thoughts.


Dr. Patricia S. Kusimo


President/CEO of The Education Alliance


Charleston


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