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Dealing with your own failures. (Putnam County (Fla.) School District).

Perhaps the worst part of the No Child Left Behind bill, for administrators at least, is the government's ability to tab schools as failing. Because the law says each subgroup of students has to show annual progress toward state-defined goals, even a good school can be labeled failing if one subgroup doesn't progress according to schedule.

But Putnam County School District Superintendent David Buckles has already lived through Florida's school grading process and he has some advice for those awaiting grades with the trepidation of a 14-year-old at report card time. Relax.

"You've got to get beyond feeling like the law is fair or unfair," he counsels. Although Buckles admits he thinks the law is "a lot more positive than negative," he talks about how he handled the first bad grades in his Palatka, Fla., district.

Florida's program grades schools from A to F, although it doesn't require each subgroup of students to show progress like NCLB does.

In one year, two of 19 schools in Buckles' district were given D's, and the following year one school in his district received its first failing grade.

"That got our attention," he says. "I immediately gathered my instructional division and asked them to show me an educational plan for each kid, where they started the school year and how they've progressed." For those who were behind, he demanded a prescriptive, research-based strategy for their improvement.

"Because of the accountability, we did a better job of developing strategies," he adds.

This work muted a lot of the local criticism that was expected with the bad grades. When parents came to complain, Buckles explained the problem and showed how the district hoped to improve.

"It took the sting away. Even the local media became very supportive," he says. "The thing you don't want to do is make excuses. Accept the challenge and rise to the occasion."
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Title Annotation:failing schools one result of mandated standards
Author:D'Orio, Wayne
Publication:District Administration
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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