After one Silver Valley school was placed on a new list of 1,000 of the lowest performing schools in the state despite recent test score improvement, Marc Jackson and 25 other school superintendents in the county are calling on lawmakers to change a piece of legislation they view as flawed.

Jackson, Silver Valley Unified School District's superintendent, presented a letter signed by 26 San Bernardino County superintendents to the State Board of Education Sept. 16 opposing the Open Enrollment Act. He and his colleagues are asking that the state board send the law back to legislators, saying that it's confusing to parents and demoralizing to teachers and administrators.

The Open Enrollment Act established a list of 1,000 of the lowest performing schools in the state based on their Academic Performance Index rating. But because a single district can't have more than 10 percent of its schools on the list, the list doesn't accurately reflect the 1,000 lowest performing schools. A school can be left off the list even if its API score is worse than schools on the list due to the restrictions.

The act also allows students enrolled in a school on the Open Enrollment list the ability to transfer to a school with a higher API score. The law took was passed in January and took effect in April.

API scores are based on standardized test results. The state's goal is to have all schools to receive scores of 800 by 2012.

"The API (numbers) has to be low enough to where it makes sense," Jackson said. "To send letters out to (schools with) 800-plus or 797, that's sending a mixed message."

Jackson is a member of the Association of California School Administrators' Superintendency Council and acts as a liaison between county superintendents and the state.

Even though its API score is currently at 756 an increase from last year's score of 722 Yermo Elementary School was added to the Open Enrollment list.

In Barstow, Crestline Elementary School and Barstow Junior High School were placed on the list. Crestline last year had been removed from "program improvement" status a label given to schools with low standardized test scores. And Barstow Junior High School's API growth this year ranked third among county schools.

Susan Levine, Barstow Unified School District superintendent, added her name to Jackson's letter of opposition. She sees the Open Enrollment Act as a political ploy for California to get a portion of $4.3 billion in federal funds from "Race to the Top," which the Obama administration is offering states that improve education standards.

"It's kind of like a slap on the wrist by putting us on this list," she said, adding that Barstow Junior High School is on the list because its proficiency isn't high enough. "It shines a bad light on a school that is definitely making improvement."

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com