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K. White Jr. High may restructure to meet federal mandates

MISSION—The Mission School Board last week approved a restructuring plan for the Kenneth White Junior High campus. The action was taken in response to federal No Child Left Behind Act mandates to make improvements at the campus, which has failed to meet AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) test score requirements for four consecutive years.

The Mission school district proposes converting the junior high into a STEM academy, focusing on science, technology, engineering and math, beginning with the sixth grade students.

In part with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is required to identify school improvements for campuses that do not meet adequate yearly progress (AYP). Campuses that fail to meet these requirements for two consecutive years for the same indicator (math, reading, attendance and/or graduation rate) must undergo School Improvement Programs (SIP).

A district restructuring team has studied the options provided by TEA and recommended that the campus be restructured as a STEM academy.

K. White is a Title 1, Part A campus, which allows them to receive funding from the state and use campus funds to help implement a school-wide program or a targeted assistance program. K. White did not meet state requirement in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA).

At the MCISD Curriculum Committee meeting on Nov. 7, professional service provider for K. White, Bertha Mejia explained that the campus is currently at a Stage 4; they missed requirements for four consecutive years.

A restructuring team made up of district and campus members was required as part of the Texas Accountability Intervention System (TAIS). As part of TAIS, the team completed a data analysis to see what issues were causing the campus to fail AYP standards. Following the data analysis, a needs assessment was performed to see how to better meet the needs of affected students.

The next step required by TEA is to create an Improvement Plan or restructuring plan, then implement and monitor the success of the plan.

“One of the requirements for a Stage 4 school is a restructuring plan, this is a major change in a campus’s operation,” Mejia said. “However this year, Stage 4, is a planning year. In the event that K. White meets AYP this year they will not go into this restructuring plan.”

However, even if the campus does meet AYP this year, the district may still opt to proceed with restructuring the campus as a STEM academy.

MCISD has five options when restructuring their campus for the 2013-2014 school year:

Option 1- Re-open the school as a charter school, following the requirements described in the Texas Education Code.

Option 2 - Replace all or most of the school staff (which may include the principal) who are relevant to the failure to make AYP.

Option 3 - Contract for a private management company of demonstrated effectiveness to operate the public school.

Option 4 - Turn the operation of the school over to the state educational agency, to the extent allowed by the Texas Education Code.

Option 5 - Any other major restructuring of school governance arrangement that makes fundamental reforms.

The restructuring team chose Option 5, which has an umbrella of seven options. The group decided on Option 5.3, reconstructing the school into smaller antonymous learning communities or a school within a school.

The District Coordinator of School Improvement Carmen Garcia explained at the public hearing only the sixth grade level would be the focus.

“Basically, the grade level they (restructuring team) had concerns with was sixth grade. Their sixth grade scores were probably one of the lowest in the campus,” Garcia said.

“They are opting to have the sixth grade at a separate campus within K. White, where they want to focus on the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and make it a STEM academy.”

Garcia said, eventually the whole campus would become a STEM academy.

“The goal is to better address the needs and interests of that campus,” Garcia added.

Executive Director for State and Federal Programs Edilberto Flores says this could be a trend-setting moment for the K. White campus since neighboring districts have not looked into a STEM academy at the junior high level.

“This gives us the opportunity to recruit and acquire other students that will increase the scores of the campus,” Flores said. “ Also when you look at peer tutoring and morale, it will not only encourage students, but at the same time look at making K. White a campus that becomes a model for the district and maybe other districts as well.”

At the meeting on Nov. 14, the MCISD school board approved Option 5.3. Garcia said notice of the approval would be sent to TEA, and the campus will begin looking for necessary trainings and creating a comprehensive plan with set timelines for the restructure.

Parents have been notified through newsletters and meetings every step of the way according to Craig Verley, director of public relations and marketing for MCISD. Garcia added parents would be notified once the plan is implemented.

If K. White does meet AYP in the 2012-2013 year, the campus still has the option to open the STEM Academy as teachers and staff will already be trained for its opening. Progress reports must be sent to TEA every six weeks.

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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