Wednesday, May 04, 2005

They've tried nearly everything...

Rob Nelson of T-P reports that it is not only Orleans Parish that has a problem with school performance.

They've tried nearly everything.

From luring students to school with video-game systems to improve attendance to boosting salaries to attract certified teachers, Jefferson Parish's worst-performing public schools are experimenting with aggressive, creative ways to dig themselves out of the district's academic basement.

But while long on imagination and perseverance, such schools could soon find themselves short on time as Superintendent Diane Roussel jumps on board an emerging statewide trend to overhaul failing schools before they slip deeper into mandated reforms.

Despite an unsuccessful March proposal to reconfigure a long-struggling Gretna elementary school, Roussel has said that dramatic changes might be in store as soon as 2006-07 for troubled schools that fail to make a turnaround.

"Why let us become a failing school system," Roussel said, lamenting children mired in consistently subpar classrooms. "Why not try other things?"

Under federal and state mandates, school systems could eventually be forced to transform failing schools into charter schools, overhaul the faculty or submit to a state takeover -- sanctions Roussel hopes to avoid or implement herself by taking preemptive action.

Under the state accountability system, four West Bank schools seem likely targets for reconfiguration: Bonella St. Ville Elementary in Harvey, L.W. Ruppel Elementary in Marrero, Stella Worley Middle in Westwego and Frederick Douglass Elementary in Gretna.

They are the only Jefferson schools that have reached the second or third level of "school improvement," forcing them to offer one-on-one private tutoring or allow students to transfer, an option only 89 of 2,000 eligible students took this year.
If the schools' test scores, attendance and dropout rates continue to falter, they will face state orders to restructure or, worse yet, to submit to "alternative governance" in the form of a charter school or state takeover.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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