07/27/04 — Carver Heights among schools with additional week of school

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Carver Heights among schools with additional week of school

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on July 27, 2004 1:57 PM

Carver Heights Elementary School will again have an additional week of school this year, despite improvements in test scores over the past two years.

The school is among three dozen across North Carolina requiring extra instruction due to a law educators say is based on out-of-date test scores and five-year-old demographics.

Olivia Pierce, executive director for community relations with Wayne County public schools, said the school was identified as low-performing several years ago by the state. Because Carver Heights fell short for two years, it became designated as a high-priority school.

As a result, 10 days of extended employment were added for teachers at the school. Five were additional student days, the other five for staff development.

The legislation, she says, was never designed to be a punishment. But it has nevertheless been a difficult stigma to shake.

"Once you have that designation, you can't get rid of it," she said. "No matter what you do, there's no way to get off that list once you get on it."

She said Carver Heights has made "adequate yearly progress" for two consecutive years under the federal rules, but continues to turn up on the list of schools in need of assistance.

In 1999-2000, the state performance rating for the school was in the 30s, she said. Preliminary results for this year show the rating has moved up into the low 70s.

In fact, parents who have been sent letters saying they can transfer their children from schools that did not meet federal yearly progress guidelines have been given Carver Heights as a transfer option.

The three-year-old law is well-intended, local and state educators said, prescribing more instruction days to improve test scores. But educators said the $10 million program it funds is flawed because schools that improve haven't been taken off the program, and schools that have begun to do poorly haven't been added to it.

Legislators passed a law in 2001 that required 36 specified high-poverty, low-performing schools to offer an additional week of instruction, at a total cost of about $10 million per year. The money pays teachers for 10 more days of work and helps reduce class size to a 1-to-15 ratio.

The idea was to help the high-poverty schools improve, but the law made no provision for changing conditions at the schools.

The schools were chosen because in 1999-2000 more than 80 percent of their students qualified for free and reduced-price lunch programs, and 55 percent or fewer passed state math and reading exams. Students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch programs based on low family incomes.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)