Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Area School District officials didn't waste much time getting the word out about the No Child Left Behind Act to staff and parents. Brochures and public meetings helped people understand the mandates and how the district would meet them.
Administrators in the Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Area School District started early preparing staff members and the community for the changes the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act would bring. As a result, staff members feel confident about the district's ability to bring all students to expected levels of academic performance, but is aware that some subgroups may have problems making adequate yearly progress (AYP).
The district sends a brochure to parents of children enrolled in its schools that clearly spells out the student learning expectations. Signed by the district co-superintendents, the brochure tells parents that the Sheboygan Area School District will continue to make sure that "no child is left behind."
The brochure explains to parents the main elements of NCLB, including more choices for parents; more opportunities for the state and local school districts to decide how to use federal money for schools; more testing for students to make sure schools are doing a good job; and additional requirements affecting qualifications of school staff. To reach families who speak languages other than English, the brochure lists names and phone numbers of key personnel for each of the main languages. The district also annually provides parents with a brochure that explains the standards for each elementary grade level, with versions in Spanish, Hmong, Albanian, Bosnian, and other languages. Similar information is being developed for middle and high school courses.KEEPING THE PUBLIC INFORMED
Parent and community involvement continues to be at the core of Sheboygan's educational efforts. The district held five NCLB community information sessions during the 2002-03 school year, one at each school site. These sessions were intended to give parents, students, and community members opportunities to express their thoughts and concerns about the new requirements to a distinguished listening panel made up of members of the state legislature.
Participants at these sessions raised concerns about the new testing requirements for all grade levels, especially the testing of students with disabilities and English language learners, and about the challenge of bringing all students to proficiency by 2013.
Participants also discussed the price tag of meeting the additional testing requirements and other demands and wondered whether the district would have to create more classrooms for students who transfer from one school to the law's choice provisions.
Although none of the district schools faced school improvement in 2003-04, the district recognizes that choice and supplemental service requirements could become a reality in future years, especially if English language learners and students with disabilities do not make adequate yearly progress.
MAINTAINING ADEQUATE YEARLY PROGRESS
Testing at grades 3, 5, 6, and 7 is new for Sheboygan, since previously the state tested only in grades 4, 8, and 10. The requirements to make AYP for each major subgroup have posed new challenges, especially for English language learners. The district understands it must mount specific efforts to address the academic needs of subgroups that are not meeting grade-level expectations. However, school choice should not be a problem to implement because Wisconsin already allows parents to choose the school their child will attend.
NCLB sets high expectations for students who are learning English. The district has a program funded under NCLB Title III specifically designed to assist English language learners at two sites, an elementary school and a middle school. Testing procedures are in place to determine both the English proficiency and the academic achievement of all language minority students. At the same time, Sheboygan's ELL population continues to increase.
Students in Sheboygan speak 20 different languages, and most of the programs for English language learners are of the English immersion type. According to Wisconsin state law, parents must be offered the opportunity to have their children enrolled in a bilingual program, but Sheboygan parents overwhelmingly opt for immersion. The district continues to increase its level of support and resources to schools that have large numbers of English language learners. This support includes after-school programs funded by the district and Title I and additional assistance for English language learners from Title III of NCLB. Sheboygan's English language learners outperform ELL students in comparable districts.HIGHLY QUALIFIED STAFF
Meeting the NCLB provisions for teacher qualifications may pose a challenge for the Sheboygan Area School District. Although elementary teachers meet the state requirements, two groups of teachers that may need additional coursework or credentials are some teachers in specific content areas at the middle school level and special education teachers. In both cases, these positions are hard to fill because of a general shortage of qualified teachers who meet state certification. Plans are in place for additional staff development and recruitment.
Sheboygan is also focusing on the testing and training of paraprofessionals. The district has developed and implemented its own training and testing program to assure that these employees meet NCLB requirements. Of the 47 paraprofessionals in the district, 23 work at Title I schools, and none of them have two years of college. New hires are expected to have completed two years of college.
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.