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posted: 8/15/2013 5:30 AM

Three Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 schools to offer choice

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With the first day of school just a week away, parents at three Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 elementary schools have a choice to make, and quickly.

Parents with children at Johnson Elementary can request by Friday to have their children go to Bower Elementary, and parents with children at both Hawthorne and Washington elementary schools can request a move to Pleasant Hill.

The choice is required to be offered because Johnson, Hawthorne and Washington failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Districts are required to offer choice when a Title I school fails to make AYP on student standardized test scores more than two years in a row. Title I schools receive federal dollars when more than half of their population are considered low income.

The district received news from the state Monday morning and sent a letter home to parents the same afternoon. Forms from parents requesting a move are due back to the district Friday. District officials, however, are not expecting much movement.

Faith Dahlquist, assistant superintendent of educational services, said this is the third consecutive year Johnson parents were given a choice, second consecutive year for Hawthorne, and the first year for Washington.

"I do not think there will be as many students (moving from) Johnson because I've given this presentation and explaining this to parents for the third year in a row," Dahlquist told board members Wednesday night. "I anticipate, if I were to ballpark it, having less than 10 move from Johnson to Bower. The first year we had 20. Last year we had about 13, but it's not a huge amount."

Students who receive a free lunch and scored below AYP levels in reading and math will be given priority when requesting moves.

"What we're going to need to really look at is making sure we continue to move kids to the high end of meets and to exceeds because just hovering at what meets isn't good enough," Dahlquist said.

This year, 92.5 percent of students schoolwide and within all demographic subgroups were required to meet or exceed standards for a school to make AYP without safe harbor. Once a school offers choice for the first time, the option must be available until it makes AYP two years in a row,

Making AYP grew tougher across the state this year for several reasons, Dahlquist said. While the percentage of students who need to meet or exceed standards remained at 92.5 percent, the state raised the test score needed to qualify as meeting or exceeding. The test students took this spring also was more difficult, with 20 percent of questions aligned to the new Common Core curriculum that will be adopted across the state in 2014-15.

Superintendent Brian Harris criticized the current system that he says "punishes" districts.

"The whole punish situation that is set up through that legislation is completely inappropriate. It really creates a lot of anxiety for families, for friends and for staff," Harris said. "We believe all of our schools are doing an excellent job on a daily basis. We have the same curriculum, we have the same materials and we will continue to do that."

Dahlquist and principals from Johnson, Hawthorne and Washington schools will host a special presentation for parents at 7 p.m. today at Washington Elementary School, 911 Bridle Lane in Wheaton.

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