Parents from two of Rochester's elementary schools this fall received a letter saying that because of recent state test scores, they could choose to send their students to different district schools.
But why? Here are some answers:
Why were Pinewood and Riverside Central elementary schools cited by the state?
Pinewood and Riverside Central students did not meet the Minnesota Department of Education's yearly progress goals, linked to the federal No Child Left Behind mandate.
The benchmarks, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, require certain percentages of a school's population to pass state tests in reading and math.
School populations are separated into eight groups, including racial and socio-economic categories. If one of the groups does not make AYP, the school is cited.
Pinewood Elementary was cited for reading proficiency among Hispanic, black and English-language learning students. Riverside Central Elementary was cited for reading proficiency among black, English-language learning and low-income students. Math proficiency also lagged among low-income students.
Were other schools in Rochester cited?
Yes. Thirteen of Rochester's schools were cited in all. Nearly half of Minnesota's schools statewide were cited.
If other schools were cited, why were these two schools penalized?
Pinewood and Riverside Central were penalized for two reasons:
First, any school that fails to meet AYP for two straight years in either math or reading -- in the same student subgroup -- is penalized. For example, if one subgroup of students miss AYP in reading two years in a row, that school would be penalized.
Second, the schools were penalized because they receive federal Title I dollars. If a school receives that money, they are subject to the penalties. Bamber Valley and Folwell elementary schools did not make AYP this year, but they do not receive Title I dollars, so they are not penalized.
The penalties escalate each year. At Riverside Central and Pinewood, the district must offer parents the choice of attending another district school.
What are my options as a parent?
Riverside Central parents can choose to send their children to Churchill-Hoover Elementary or Jefferson Elementary. Pinewood parents can switch schools to Franklin Elementary. Or, parents can choose for their students to remain at their current schools.
Either way, Susanne Griffin-Ziebart, Rochester's executive director of school improvement and accountability, said that parents should first talk with their child's teachers and building principal.
"First of all, you need to make a decision based on what's best for your individual child," she said.
Should I feel that I need to move my student?
Griffin-Ziebart said parents shouldn't panic.
"I think there are a couple of things to consider why you might want choice and why you might not want choice," she said. "Families have relationships at the school with staff members, principals, with others in the school communities. Those are great resources for kids to be successful."
For more information, parents can contact each school office directly.