Parents of students in eight Kent elementary schools now have the option of sending their children to one of three other schools because the schools in question have been identified as in need of improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Letters went out this week informing parents of the “public school option,” trigged when the eight schools failed to meet “adequate yearly progress” for two consecutive years. The requirement applies only to schools that receive federal Title 1 money, which the Kent elementary schools in question receive.
The eight schools which fall under the public-school choice option are: Neely-O’Brien, Scenic Hill, Park Orchard, Springbrook, Easthill, Jenkins Creek, Meadow Ridge and Cedar Valley.
Students attending those schools now have the option of switching to one of three other elementary schools within the district: Sawyer Woods, Soos Creek or Glenridge.
According to Merri Reiger, assistant superintendent for learning and school improvement, the three schools were selected for their locations – the three elementaries are spread throughout the district – and the amount of space available in each school.
Reiger said it would not make sense to send students to a school that was already full. She also noted district officials did not want to pick schools that would force families who select the public-choice option to worry about their kids having to travel to the other side of the district.
“We wanted to be able to offer, both for parents and the district, things that made sense,” Reiger said, adding, “You don’t want to put a little kindergartner on a bus for 45 minutes if you don’t have to.”
Though Reiger said in most districts around the country, parents opt to keep their kids in their neighborhood school, if any parents do opt for the public-choice option, transportation would be free.
This is the first time the Kent School District has been required to offer the public-school choice to parents. Reiger said because of the way the law was written, this is happening in many districts this year, due to a scheduled increase in test scores that schools must achieve in order to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the year.
“If you had exactly the same scores this year as you had last year, you would have double the schools not meet AYP,” Superintendent Barbara Grohe said during the Aug. 13 meeting of the Kent School Board, when the topic came up.
Reiger said the district will move forward by providing additional resources for teachers and students at the eight schools that did not meet AYP. Reiger said money could be used for support materials and personnel, an instructional coach and for “targeted interventions.”
“We’re going to step up that support even more for these schools,” Reiger said.
Reiger also said staff from all eight schools will be brought together to look at the data to better determine what can be done to better address student needs.
Reiger added teachers would also receive additional training and resources to ensure students receive more instruction in questions like those found on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, since the test is the measurement in Washington State.
“We need to make sure we’re helping teachers look at specific data,” Reiger said. “Our teachers are working diligently to do that and we continue to provide additional training in math and reading and writing.
“We’re going to continue to do what it takes to make our kids successful,” she said.
Parents interested in signing their children up for public-school choice option must return to the school office by Aug. 25 the form enclosed with the letters.
For more information, please call your local elementary school.
Contact Brian Beckley at 253-872-6600 ext. 5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org