To keep up with adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals, the Bloomfield, New Mexico, district reorganized its schools and grade distributions to serve more students effectively. A multi-year professional development effort also is underway. Included: Description of a district reorganization.
Various aspects of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act accountability requirements are presenting problems for the Bloomfield (New Mexico) School District, including the state's change from a norm-referenced test to a standards-based test. District staff members are concerned about the state's rating of schools, and they feel that directions from the state and federal level have not been as clear as they would have liked.
To better meet the needs of students and raise achievement, the Bloomfield district planned a major reorganization and consolidation of its schools and grade spans. The district's sixth graders would become part of the elementary structure, and ninth graders would join the high school. Grades pre-K and kindergarten would be housed at one site, grades 1 to3 at another, grades 4 to 6 at a third site, and all seventh and eighth graders be at a fourth site. One school was slated to be closed, one remote school would serve grades K-6, and the high school would serve all students in grades 9-12. Although these are not easy changes to make in a culturally and geographically diverse school district, the Bloomfield staff is committed to doing this to improve student achievement.
District officials are concerned about how they will be able to bring all students to the expected levels of achievement. All of the district's schools had difficulty meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets in 2003 for the students with disabilities and English-language-learner subgroups. None of the Bloomfield schools is currently in school improvement, but district officials recognize that in order for the schools to stay out of school improvement, changes have to be made.
One example is the situation regarding students with disabilities, one of the Bloomfield subgroups that did not meet AYP. Some staff members believe that test bias continues to be an issue for their students in this remote and rugged part of the country. An example one district person cited was the use of the term "boat" in one of the tests. Students in this dry land of northern New Mexico know a boat only as something pulled behind a car or truck heading somewhere else and may not understand a boat's connection with water. Another example cited involves the term "subway" -- which these rural students would more likely think of as a place to eat a sandwich than a city transit system.
Two elementary schools were on probationary status in 2003-04, and therefore needed to meet AYP in 2004. If one of the schools enters school improvement, the district will have great difficulty offering school choice because there will be only one school per grade span, except for the elementary school that is in a remote area. Neighboring districts are too far away, so supplemental services would have to be provided. However, with so many students being bused many miles to their homes, this, too, would present many challenges for the district.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PUSH
On the positive side, the Bloomfield district has undertaken a multi-year professional development effort for teachers and other staff that fits well with the requirements of NCLB. Title II funds have been used to provide extended professional development for teachers and support staff in writing, brain development, language development, English-as-a-second-language, and reading and math intervention strategies, as well as in the widespread use of technology. Some of the training has taken place on non-student days built into teachers' contracts and in the summer, and the teachers receive college credit for their training. Substitutes are provided for teachers who attend training sessions during the regular school day.
Bloomfield teachers of all grade levels are well versed in technology and have equipment and software in their classrooms. This investment by the district benefits students in many ways, from improving their writing skills to enabling them to gather information and do research for classroom projects. The district makes extensive use of mentoring to assist the 20 to 30 new teachers hired each year. New teachers are paired with experienced teachers, who assist them with curriculum, instruction, and assessment and help the m adjust to the professional demands of their new teaching assignment. Focus groups provide opportunities for teachers to share successful techniques and lessons.
Staff development in Bloomfield includes training for administrators, many of whom have come from the Bloomfield teaching ranks. This professional development now includes leadership training for principals so they can assist teachers in improving academic achievement.
Currently, about 10 percent of teachers of the district's teachers and 84 percent of the district's paraprofessionals do not meet the NCLB highly qualified requirements. The district is reimbursing teachers and paraprofessionals for the costs of coursework needed to meet NCLB requirements. Classes are offered in the district and at the nearby community college. This reimbursement applies to all staff hired before NCLB went into effect. New staff members must meet NCLB requirements as a condition of hire.
SOURCE: Center on Education Policy
To read the full report, see A Look Inside 33 School Districts: Year 2 of the No Child Left Behind Act.