A Kane County judge has ruled in favor of parents who sued St. Charles Unit District 303 to undo the conversion of Davis and Richmond schools to grade level centers. But the resulting court order still doesn't force the district to dissolve the centers.
The order by Judge David Akemann said evidence shows District 303 violated the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law by creating two new schools instead of crafting a true plan to address Richmond Elementary students repeatedly failing to meet test score benchmarks known as Adequate Yearly Progress.
Repeated failure to meet AYP results in a series of requirements for school improvement that ultimately can result in a major restructuring of a school or district if the problems persist.
Akemann said district officials had those consequences in mind when they transformed Davis and Richmond into grade level centers.
"It appears that the district developed its 2011 educational plan, at least in part, to resolve its AYP status," Akemann wrote. "Although district personnel repeatedly denied that resolving the Richmond issue was a factor of the 2011 plan, the court does not find this testimony to be credible."
Akemann's order gives district officials six months to develop a plan to help those failing students succeed.
That plan must include the option of transferring to a new school and receiving outside tutoring support.
The lingering question is whether Akemann believes District 303 can develop and implement such a plan for those failing students while maintaining the current grade level centers.
Akemann may address that issue at a Sept. 11 "status and any remaining issues" meeting with the district and Tim Dwyer, the attorney representing the parents who sued.
Superintendent Don Schlomann said it's true the district lost, but it's not clear what the loss means in terms of anything new the district must do or change.
"The order is asking us to do a school improvement plan, which is something we do for Richmond as required under No Child Left Behind," Schlomann said. "It requires us to do school choice, which we just got done doing for Richmond. And it requires us to offer supplemental education service, which we also have. So, everything that we've seen to date in the order is stuff that we've already been doing."
Dwyer disagrees that Akemann's order wouldn't require district officials to change any current practices.
However, he agrees the order doesn't clearly state that the grade level centers must be abolished.
Dissolving the centers is the outcome his clients have sought all along, but Dwyer said it is possible the parents might be able to work out an agreement with the district before the Sept. 11 meeting with Akemann.
"There's a lot of issues to be resolved," Dwyer said. "I'm not sure yet what will happen. There's a lot of factors."
Dwyer said it is possible his clients will appeal the decision if the result doesn't involve dissolution of the grade level centers. Likewise, Schlomann said the district might appeal if they are forced to undo the grade level centers.