St. James remediation program Oked despite citizen concerns

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2000

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / March 22, 2000

LUTCHER -The Concerned Citizens Committee of St. James, headed byJackie Levy and Assata Olugbala, want the St. James Parish School Boardto take a closer look at a proposed LEAP 21 remediation program.

The group has been keeping a close eye on the St. James Parish SchoolBoard’s activities. Supported by members of the community, the CCC wasagain present at the school board meeting Tuesday.

With LEAP 21 testing this week in all the fourth- and eighth-grade classrooms, the CCC again stood before the board demanding attention to the design problems in the test and the idea of remediation for those students who will not pass.

On the meeting’s agenda was a proposed plan for the LEAP 21 remediation program, which was approved unanimously by the board despite the citizens’ concerns. Olugbala asked the board not to approve the programuntil the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education finished completing its requirements for remediation at its March 23 meeting. Olugbala statedthat BESE would be discussing date, hours of operation, the override processes and other such issues, and the CCC is concerned the plan would call for remediation during normal school hours, and five hours of instruction on one subject.

Olugbala said research agrees there is a certain span of time children can learn information, and she is concerned the five hours is well over that time and questioned if the organizers of the remediation program had considered that.

Janie Vee Henderson brought the remediation program before the board and outlined the project. She said test scores are due to arrive on May 13, andremediation “Jumpstart” will begin May 17 and run until May 29, five hours a day. The summer session will be held June 5-29. Students whofailed the test will start at 7:30 a.m. and end their day at 1:15 p.m.Summer testing dates are July 6, seven days after the last instructional session, until July 12.

The school system expects 479 kids to require the summer testing. Motivahas donated the funds to train the teachers on the curriculum. The totalprogram will cost $53,088.75, though due to contributions the parish willpay $14,888.75.The remediation will be held, for east bank students, at Lutcher Elementary for fourth-graders and Lutcher High for eighth-grader. On thewest bank students will attend Sixth Ward Elementary for fourth grade remediation and St. James Junior High for eighth grade remediation.Olugbala gave a report to the board concerning the CCC’s Leap 21 research.

Knowing BESE had based the testing and remediation on the similar programs in Texas and Chicago, the CCC looked at those states’ respective programs.

Texas began its high stakes testing in 1990. However, its school systemsare waiting until 2003 before starting remediation, giving the students a chance to adjust to the testing before worrying about failure.

In Chicago the school system allows for creations of alternative schools for “problematic students.” The alternative schools are not counted in thetesting.

The citizens said another problem with the remediation is the fact the returning scores are not divided into the tested categories. The teacherswill not know which subject a student needs to focus on, so how can you plan to remediate a student if you don’t know what areas need to be taught, asked Olugbala.

Lastly, Olugbala reminded the board of the difficulty in the coming school year of handling the remediated students. The starting date for schools inSt. James is Aug 18. Summer test scores are not expected to arrive in theparish until Aug 29.

Levy presented a resolution for the board to review calling for the elimination of the retention aspect of LEAP 21. Levy supported theresolution with 14 points, including: 28 days are not enough time to remediate students, the policy needs to be gradually introduced since one- third of the students will fail, the LEAP 21 test should be reconstructed, and others. Levy suggested the test itself may be the problem and shouldbe look at.

In other business: Levy resubmitted the request for due process procedures that are consistent at all school sites for students, personnel and staff. Afraidthat there had been a misunderstanding pertaining to the purpose of the request, Levy explained what the parents needed. She said the requestbefore the board is to add a rule where if a person brings a complaint to the system, that person will receive an answer to the problem.

Bids to replace the air conditioning systems at Fifth Ward Elementary and Romeville Elementary were opened and taken under advisement by the board. For the Fifth Ward, Volute, Inc. gave the lowest base bid at$875,300. For Romeville, Gallo Mechanical bid the lowest with the basebid of $998,000.

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