With just one day remaining to complete the Goshen Community Schools online restructuring survey, GCS officials are asking concerned, local residents to hop online and get their voices heard.

Established on Nov. 23, the online restructuring survey is a tool created by the Goshen Community Schools Comprehensive Action Committee, a group of teachers, administrators, parents and concerned residents formed back in late September to examine the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act and find the best ways to apply those requirements to local Title I schools.

Passed by Congress in 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act was created with the goal of ensuring all children have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a quality education while also ensuring that assessments, teacher preparation and curriculum meet minimum state standards.

With its creation, NCLB also established formal, increasingly severe consequences for those public schools that consistently fail to meet AYP while participating in the Title I program. Schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families can apply for Title I status in order to receive additional federal funding to support those students.

Consequences for failing to meet AYP can include everything from requiring failing schools to implement additional tutoring services to allowing parents with children attending failing Title I schools to transfer their students to other non-Title I schools in the district.

To avoid such consequences, Title I schools must show consistent improvement in passing percentages each year on the Indiana Statewide Testing For Educational Progress-Plus, or ISTEP-Plus exam, in order to achieve AYP.

GCS currently has three elementary schools designated as Title I schools: Chamberlain, Chandler and West Goshen — all of which are currently dealing with some form of corrective action due to failing to meet AYP for the fifth consecutive year.

Of all GCS Title I schools, Chandler Elementary has been hit the hardest and is now facing possible restructuring in the 2010-2011 school year, a fact which led to the creation of the GCS Comprehensive Action Committee and eventually the online poll.

As of now, four restructuring options currently face Chandler:

1) replacing the principal and other relevant staff who have remained the same during the sustained failure to meet AYP;

2) closing the school;

3) reopening as a charter school; or

4) contracting with a private management firm to operate the school.

Several subcommittees within the greater Comprehensive Action Committee were created to study these various options, one of which, Subcommittee 6, was created specifically to design and implement an online survey looking at what the community feels would be the best option for area Title I schools.

“The goal of the survey is to find out from Goshen residents — those that have children in the schools and also those that perhaps do not — what their thoughts would be in the event that we’re required to make some changes in our elementary school services,” said Tamra Ummel, executive director of elementary education for GCS.

According to Ummel, the corporation has only received 240 completed responses to date, and with today marking the final day to complete the survey, time is of the essence.

“Dec. 6 is the last day to participate in the survey, so we would like to encourage anybody who has not yet had a chance to complete the survey to please do so,” Ummel said. “The survey will be available all day (today) in the announcements section of our home page, www.goshenschools.org, and then will be taken down Monday morning.”

Once the survey deadline has passed, Ummel said the results will be compiled and summarized into a usable format before being returned to Subcommittee 6 for study and review.

“Once we have the results summarized and in a usable format, our first task will be to take that back to the subcommittee and have them make some sense out of it, and then eventually to the larger committee,” Ummel said. “Our hope is that the information will be compiled sometime next week.”

As for when she expects the Comprehensive Action Committee to have an actual recommendation to the school board with regard to restructuring, Ummel said she expects some form of a recommendation to be ready by mid- to late-January 2010.

“We still have two scheduled meetings yet in December, so a recommendation will probably not be made until sometime in January,” Ummel said. “There’s a process we must follow anytime something like this goes before the board for action, so that would be our earliest opportunity.”

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