The deadline for parents of Miraleste Intermediate School students to notify the district that they want to transfer their child to another Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District school was extended until the beginning of February after parents spoke out to a nearly packed house at Thursday’s school board meeting.
Parents have this option because the school was identified as a Program Improvement school under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
To be transferred on the first day school returns after winter break, parents needed to submit the request by Wednesday at 3 p.m. According to Chief Academic Officer Martin Griffin some parents have already requested a transfer.
The school’s scores jumped 16 points to 910 in the 2012 school year, but because it receives Title I funds and the school did not meet its proficiency goals for one group of students two years in a row, it was placed in the Program Improvement category.
In 2012, Miraleste missed its target of Hispanic or Latino students score proficient on the state’s English/Language Arts test. The target score was 78 percent, but the school was 5 percent off from the goal. In 2011, the school did not meet its goals for students with disabilities in English/Language Arts.
Parent Michele Beilke told the board that knowing the contents of the school’s revised site plans for the year and whether or not the school would take Title I funds next year were critical to her decision about transferring or not transferring her son, but that information would not be available until January.
All schools create site plans that address issues like instructional planning and professional development, but the Program Improvement designation means Miraleste will have to adjust their plan to create a two-year plan that further targets struggling students in order to best meet their needs. This means additional professional development for teachers and an instructional intervention plan for students that need it. Griffin said some of this intervention would take place within the classroom and some would be addressed in programs outside of normal school hours.
Of particular concern to parents at Thursday’s meeting was that increased focus on professional development would mean their students would be spending more time with substitute teachers as their regular teachers attended meetings.
Griffin said this came as a shock to him because while the money could be used for substitutes, much of the professional development could take place outside of school hours. Depending on the need teachers see in the program, teachers may take time to meet in departments to work on curriculum and assessments. He said that sometimes teachers meet before or after school beyond their normal work hours to do these activities and there no specific plan has been made yet as to when these activities will take place.
“The main focus of the money is to make sure the teachers are getting the continuing education and research-based professional development, strategies and curriculum that’s going to help them be more successful with students,” Griffin said.
In January, the board will also decide its future approach to how it accepts Title I funds—or if it accepts them at all. If the district no longer receives the funds or they switch to a model where only elementary schools receive the funds, Miraleste will still need to work towards meeting the goal for each group of students, but it will no longer be subject to the punitive consequences of Program Improvement.
This school year, Miraleste received $37,000 in Title I funds and last school year, they received $87,000, Griffin said. District-wide, $466,346 came in in Federal Title 1 funding. Griffin said Miraleste uses most of its Title 1 funds to pay for teachers to work directly with students who are Title 1 eligible.
While parents who wait until after the board weighs in on the school site plan and Title I funding to request a transfer will receive their child’s new school assignment almost immediately, the transfer would occur right in the middle of a trimester. This could have adverse effects on the students academic progress.
While the board agreed with allowing the later deadline, some members expressed concern about the effects of a late transfer on student education. Board clerk Malcolm Sharp pointed said, “Transferring schools, especially for 12, 13, 14 year olds—having raised two of them—that’s a tough decision because You know, there’s more to it than just the academics. Actually it seems like the hormones take control.”