Thursday, 19 October 2006 01:54

North Star Independent Study Program: Why The Invitation Into State Program?

According to the State Depeartment of EducationLast night the Amador County Unified School District Board of Trustees took a look at the District’s Independent Study Program, Northstar and weighed whether or not to accept an invitation to participate in a state program for High Priority Schools. According to the State Department of Education this invitation is extended to schools having difficulty making standards developed under the state’s accountability program or the Federal No Child left Behind Act. According to Sandy Watson, Principal of the Northstar School, this invitation can be based on low test scores, or mandates imposed by the Federal Government through the No Child Left behind Program. These mandates include a certification by the school district that the school is staffed by “Highly qualified teachers”. A highly qualified teacher under the law must have: 1) a bachelor's degree, 2) full state certification or licensure, and 3) prove that they know each subject they teach.

Principal of the North Star School, Sandy WatsonAccording to Watson this was the basis of the invitation- the requirement for highly qualified teachers under the rules of the federal mandates. Also, according to Elizabeth Chapin Pinotti, Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum, issues with previous years test’s scores, which were considered low when compared to similar schools through the state’s ranking system, have continued to be addressed by the state, even though the school has made gains in this area. Watson explains that also, because of the nature of an independent study program, teachers are required to teach up to 8 subjects per day- that means teachers, under the law, would need to be highly qualified in each subject. Watson states that the district has worked, through the state department of education, to resolve this issue and is now at a point where the invitation by the state is no longer applicable. Watson says “We have a great independent study program with students that have raised test scores over 40 points in two years.” After weighing the 50 thousand dollar grant that was available against the accountability benchmarks and what Chapin Pinotti stated would be a program would be under a state microscope, the Board decided to reject the invitation and the money. The program continues to improve stated Pinotti, test scores are rising, and independent study is no longer a “dumping ground” for problem students.

A highly qualified teacher under law Principal of the North Star School, Sandy Watson Principal of the North Star School, Sandy Watson