But Dorchester Elementary isn't in nearly as bad of shape as schools in neighboring communities, which have been on the underachievement list for consecutive years -- and face much stiffer penalties.
Under the federal "No Child Left Behind" law, the Nebraska Department of Education must identify schools as in need of improvement when they miss the state’s goals for adequate yearly progress on state tests in the same subject and grade span for two or more consecutive years. Schools that receive federal dollars for educating students in poverty — Title I schools — face consequences under the law. Each year a school stays on the list, additional consequences are imposed.
Dorchester's elementary school is one of 136 Nebraska schools that has been placed on the "Year 1" underachievement penalty list. Schools on this list must notify parents in writing of the school’s status and give parents the opportunity to move their child to another school not on the needs-improvement list. The district must pay for transportation. The school must also develop a two-year improvement plan and pay for extra teacher training. Several area schools are on this "year 1" list, including Exeter-Milligan Public Schools, Meridian Public Schools and Shelby-Rising City Public Schools.
Meanwhile, 50 more Nebraska schools have been on the "underachievement list" for two consecutive years. In addition to the year 1 requirements, year 2 schools must offer free tutoring to children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. You read that correctly -- free tutoring! Among the area school districts on this list is Friend Public Schools.
More than 40 Nebraska schools have been on the underachievement list for three consecutive years. In addition to the year 1 and year 2 requirements, schools in year 3 must develop a corrective action plan and take at least one of the following actions:
-- Replace staff who were responsible for failing to make adequate yearly progress;
-- Implement a new curriculum and train teachers in ways to help low-achieving students;
-- Significantly decrease management authority at the school level;
-- Appoint an outside expert to advise the school;
-- Extend the school year or day;
-- Restructure the internal organizational structure of the school.
Among area schools, Crete Public Middle Schools has been placed on this particular list.
And more than 30 Nebraska schools have been on the underachievement list for four consecutive years. In addition to the year 1-3 requirements, school districts in year 4 must begin to develop a restructuring plan with input from parents and teachers. The plan must include one of the following options:
-- Replacing all or most of the school staff, including the principal, who were responsible for the failure to make adequate yearly progress;
-- Entering into a contract with an entity, such as a proven, private management company to operate the school;
-- Making major changes to the school’s governance structure, such as significant staffing changes.
Sadly, Crete Elementary School is on this list.
EDITOR'S NOTE: While we hate seeing Dorchester Elementary and other area schools on this list, and it's easy to point the finger of blame at school faculty, we know the challenges that teachers today face. Teachers, in addition to educating, must also play the role of social worker, financial instructor, and even parent. Let's not forget who is mostly to blame for underachieving youth today -- that is, their parents.