Pleasanton Middle School Put on Program Improvement Plan

For the first time, a Pleasanton school must undergo a monitoring program designated for under-performing schools.

is ranked No. 28 out of 1,050 California middle schools, a measure of how well it's meeting state standards.

But by federal standards, the school has failed to meet student-proficiency targets for two consecutive years and must be put on a "program improvement" plan.

The designation, given to the school last week, sets in motion a years-long monitoring process that aims to help underperforming schools turn themselves around.

While the program improvement status sounds onerous and is a first for the district, officials say they are looking at it in a positive light.

"We're putting it in context of all these other pieces of information that we're seeing," said Cindy Galbo, assistant superintendent of educational services. "Here, we have a high performing school, it has done very well over time and yet, even we have students that are not proficient ... this just refocuses our attention on those students and doing everything we can to help them be proficient."

The school was put on program improvement status after corrections were made to test data. Galbo said it appears that one student's test result was not counted in the updated numbers because the student, while scoring proficiently, was not enrolled in the district for enough days. Ultimately, removing the student from one category, pushed the school into program improvement.

At Pleasanton Middle School, Hispanic students did not meet math proficiency targets in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. This marks the first time that a Pleasanton school will be undergoing the program improvement plan.

"It's nothing we're panicked about," said Myla Grasso, district spokesperson. "We're going to learn as we go through the process."

Title I schools such as Pleasanton Middle School receive additional federal funds for having at-risk and low-income student populations.

But with funds come a myriad of requirements.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, Title I schools have to meet yearly test score improvements for all students and within all subgroups. The goal is to have 100 percent of all students be proficient in math and language arts by 2013 - 2014.

If a school misses those targets for two consecutive years, it is placed in program improvement.

While in program improvement, the school must assess its programs, curriculum and staff training and adjust its plan to increase student achievement. 

Schools within program improvement also are affected financially.

Five percent of the Title I money the school receives and 10 percent that the district collects must be used for staff training.

This year, Pleasanton Middle School received $116,000 in Title I funds. The district, which has two other  Title I schools, Valley View Elementary School and Village High School, received $322,000.

When a school is put on program improvement, parents can transfer their child from the school.

To be released from monitoring, Pleasanton Middle School must meet its academic yearly progress goals for two years. Under a worst-case scenario, the process could take up to five years and would involve replacing staff, the principal and having the state take over the school.

District officials say that is highly unlikely for Pleasanton Middle School.

Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi said she is confident that administrators and staff will work toward completing the goals within the monitoring process.

Ahmadi added that the school, which had an Academic Performance Index of 932, has been continuously improving when it comes to helping students.

"I think they will accept the challenge and find ways to meet the needs of students," said Ahmadi. "They will look at this as an opportunity to refine and do things even better."

District officials say Pleasanton Middle School's predicament illustrates the challenges with the No Child Left Behind requirements. Proficiency targets steadily increase each year. Last year's goal for math, for example, was that 58 percent of students be proficient.

Next year, the number rises to 68 percent.

"We completely agree with the [No Child Left Behind] goals ... we think it's a worthwhile effort but  .... it's a daunting challenge not just for us," said Galbo.

Parents were notified of the program improvement status on Feb. 11.

An information meeting will take place Thursday at 7 p.m. at the PMS multipurpose room.


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