In a public email exchange acquired by the Middletown Eye, Barbara Senges associate school superintendent, recently revealed that Bielfield Elementary and Farm Hill Elementary have been designated "in need of improvement," under federal No Child Left Behind regulations. Both schools failed to meet federal standards for Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) two years in a row, and as such, must offer choice to parents of students attending the school.
Last week, Superintendent Michael Frechette indicated that these results were "under embargo" by the Connecticut Department of Education, and as such, he was not allowed to comment on them.
However, Senges' email, distributed to the entire Board of Education, school administrators, some school principals, and some residents, gives specific information on the designation, and the school administrations' response:
"A little over a week ago, we were notified by the State Department of Education that as Farm Hill and Bielefield (both Title I schools under NCLB) are now identified under NCLB (No Child Left Behind) as “In Need of Improvement”, that we were required to offer school choice to a school that made AYP and had available space. Wesley fit the bill. The State also indicated that as we had only a limited number of spaces available at Wesley, that we should offer the seats to those students at Farm Hill and Bielefield designated as Title I (Free or Reduced Lunch Students achieving below grade level). Students at Bielefield and Farm Hill in grades 3 and 4 who fit this profile were called and offered a few available seats."
At least one Board of Education member was incensed enough about receiving the information three days after the most recent BOE meeting. In a response to Senges, Sheila Daniels wrote:
"Why was the issue mentioned below not brought to the attention of the Board at Tuesday night's meeting? Waiting until after the fact to inform the Board or having the Board be informed by a member of the public is not good practice."
While the district is required to offer choice to parents whose children attend a school labeled "in need of improvement," Senges explained that the school administration decided to arbitrarily offer choice to a set of parents and students, some of whom were late kindergarten registrants, others of whom are low-performing "Title 1" students, which Senges describes as "(Free or Reduced Lunch Students achieving below grade level)." The late kindergarten registrants were informed that they could chose a different school because of potential overcrowding in classrooms.
In her email, Senges indicates that the state gave the district the latitude to offer choice to a limited number of parents and students.
Last year's elementary school redistricting was expected to create achievement issues in some elementary schools, and other elementary schools in Middletown are reported to have failed to reach AYP last academic year.