State praises TPS’ use of federal fundsWritten by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Although he suggested that “it’s a little premature to talk about the successes right away,” Jim Gault, Toledo Public Schools (TPS) chief academic officer, was pleased with the district’s Title I review.
“We went from worst to first,” Gault said.
Betsey Murry, director of TPS’s Title I Education Center, was equally pleased with the review she received from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) after it conducted a two-day on-site review of 13 schools randomly selected by ODE during the last week of January.
Murry described ODE’s review as “pretty intense” as the team of six ODE investigators analyzed TPS’ performance and compliance with the federal guidelines the district must follow to qualify for the approximately $22 million it receives annually.
“As [Gault] indicated, the celebration is that they said this is one of the best visits they’ve seen from three years ago to now,” Murry said. “They told us that the growth they saw in our programming was overwhelming.
“I pulled up the report that they sent us in 2010, and there were quite a few recommendations and findings. And I saw that all of our program directors had done a nice job, particularly in [addressing the issues behind the] recommendations and findings and in turning the programs around.”
Murry said TPS “got really hit hard” three years ago on tutor qualifications, the tracking of federally funded equipment, technical assistance, beta alignment and the correlating of data.
Despite the numerous findings in the 2010 review, Murry said TPS was “never completely out of compliance. We just needed to make stronger programs, serving the kids in a little better capacity, using federal dollars to really align our resources with the needs of our district.
“They were very excited to see the growth in those three years. And what they couldn’t say enough about was, in the 13 schools they visited, how evident the use of data was” in designing curriculum to address students’ needs.
“They also said, ‘Trust me. We do enough of these visits. We can tell you when somebody’s putting on a dog-and-pony show and this was so evident of the hard work that is taking place in the buildings.” And they said, ‘We cannot wait to take this back to the government and other ODE personnel.’ Again and again, they recognized the hard work our schools and teachers are doing.
“We were very happy to hear that because we know what a focus the district has had in using data, and we were excited to hear that was very evident to them.”
Murry said TPS received three findings from ODE.
Finding No. 1 — Qualified Tutors
The state requires that students receive tutoring services from instructors with HQT (Highly Qualified Teacher) certification.
Murry said since TPS had “partnered with an outside agency, they’re doing tutoring with our students. Those tutors have to meet the same HQT qualifications as our teachers. We had been using SES (Supplemental Educational Services) qualifications, which were the minimal requirements on the paraprofessional license. With SES going away, we need to now move to HQT. And we’ve started that for next year.”
Finding No. 2 — Comparability
The second finding dealt with comparability, Murry said.
“We have to show that we’re comparable with our dollars for each of our teams,” she said. “And that has since been turned in. It was completed Feb. 20. They were here Jan. 30-31. I kind of argued how that got to be a finding, how they put that in the report.”
Finding No. 3 — Contract arrangements
The third finding focused on how TPS provides nonpublic equitable services, Murry said.
“We actually provide more services than the students even generate,” she said. The finding analyzed how TPS provides tutoring services to its out-of-district nonpublic students.
“We have a contract with the ECS (Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West), and they provide the tutoring. [The ODE reviewers] didn’t like how the contract was set up.
“It’s not that we’re not providing equitable services. I tried to argue that shouldn’t be a finding, however, everything has been corrected and we’ve shown documentation.”
‘Done so much better’
Gayle Schaber, director of special projects and compensatory programs, said the ODE review of the Title III program found that TPS has “done so much better” identifying English Language Learner (ELL) students and supplementing those students’ education with English as a Second Language (ESL) services.
She was particularly pleased when she received the report that Abdinur Mohamud with ODE’s Lau Center said at the review’s exit meeting that “our identification process and community outreach to could be a model across the state.
“The reason for that is all the detail that we put into making sure that we identify all of our students.Our secretaries are in-serviced every year in August just to remind them of the steps when a new student comes into the district. And if anything new has been added, we get information out to all of our principals so they understand how these students are identified. And then we’ve made that commitment with that community outreach.”
To continue to serve its growing ELL population, Schaber said TPS has added two ESL teachers in the past 16 months.
“Every student gets ESL [instruction] twice a week so they don’t have a real gap [in services],” Schaber said. “They have reinforcement twice a week that takes place in their home schools. They no longer have to travel for services.”
To foster clear communication, Schaber said she has all TPS documents “translated into all of the languages of the students that we serve,” including Arabic, Mandarin, French, German, Polish, Spanish, Russian and Turkish.
Schaber said about 70 percent of ELL students come from a Spanish-speaking background.
Community meeting April 24
Additionally, in response to parents saying they didn’t understand how ESL worked, Schaber held the inaugural ESL Community Meeting for the families of all K-12 TPS students in March 2012.
“The basic idea is just to have parents understand how ESL classes work and the benefit they can be to their students,” Schaber said. “And it gives them a chance to ask questions. They are also able to meet me and the ESL teachers face to face. For many people, it’s the first time that they’ve had an opportunity to meet us. We want to be open to them and have them know that this service is available for their children.”
Schaber said the meeting was so successful that TPS will host a second meeting April 24 at Walbridge Elementary School, starting at 6 p.m.
In planning for the next year, Murry said she intends to revise some of TPS’s parental involvement policies and increase homeless awareness by providing more information to building administrators about services the Title I Education Center provides.
“Overall, they were just very pleased,” Murry said. “They couldn’t say enough about the district and the growth in our federal programs. And it’s the work of every department in this district. It’s not just one office. It involves a lot of correlating. That’s 41 buildings working hard to show evidence of the knowledge they’re receiving to serve our students better.”
The five Title programs in the district are:
- Title I, Part A — “Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Educational Agencies.” This grant provides funds to schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.
- Title II, Part A — “Improving Teacher Quality State Grants Non-Regulatory Guidance.”
- Title II, Part D — “Enhancing Education Through Technology Act of 2001.” This grant provided funds to improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in elementary schools and secondary schools. This grant provided funds to local and state agencies to ensure that all teachers are qualified and effective.
- Title III — “Language Instruction for Limited English Proficient and Immigrant Students. This grant provides funds to ensure that English Language Learners, including immigrant children, become English proficient and master the content in the core academic subjects.
- Title VII — “Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native Education.”
As a part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, TPS receives funds through the “McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth Grant Awards” to ensure students living in unstable home environments receive a free and appropriate public education.