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California releases list of worst-performing schools

March 8, 2010 5:27:08 PM PST
California education officials Monday released a list of 188 failing schools that need to either be reformed or shut down. Those schools are among many around the nation being targeted by the Obama administration.

The schools can apply for a piece of a $4 billion fix-it plan.

According the State Department of Education, 43 of the nation's under-performing schools are in the Bay Area. California is eligible to receive $415 million dollars of the $4 billion available in federal funds.

Explore Preparatory is a middle school in Oakland which is slated to close because of its low academic performance. Four other schools in the same district are on the State Department of Education's list of lowest-achieving schools and now face drastic changes.

"For far too long, too many kids have been dropping out of school underprepared for reading and mathematics, and these communities have been ignored," says Alberto Retana with the U.S. Department of Education.

Now, these schools have four options.

The first is to close and reopen as a charter school. The second is to replace the principal and half of the staff. The third is to replace the principal, keep the staff and implement reforms. The fourth is to close and send the students to a higher-performing school.

The superintendent and the school board will decide the fate of each school.

"The superintendent will submit an application to the state education agency in California and make a case for which model best fits its particular school," Retana says.

There is an incentive to make these changes. California is eligible to receive $415 million in federal money to improve its 188 low-performing schools. Each school could get between $50,000 and $2 million.

"I think what we would do is we would revisit the curriculum, see what we could do about lengthening the school hours, which is one of the options, increase the amount of instructional time," says Troy Flint with the Oakland Unified School District.

On Monday, Retana was in the Bay Area from Washington, addressing Bay Area community leaders and asking them to be "drivers of change" in the schools.

"I think what we need is just to sort of decide on something and give it some time to work and fund it," says Akua Jackson with Youth Together.

"We should roll up our sleeves and work hard to make a difference," says Charles Ramsey, a school board member in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. "It's not time just to put our heads in the sand and say, 'Oh woe is me.'"

20 schools on the list of under-performing schools are in the East Bay. 12 are in San Francisco Unified School District. Seven are in Santa Clara County and four are in San Mateo County.


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