California schools face an uphill battle in their effort to meet federally mandated achievement goals, with some 700 schools facing reorganization for repeated noncompliance with the No Child Left Behind Act, a study released today says. The Center on Education Policy, based in Washington, D.C., found that the number of schools facing reorganization soared 42 percent from 2005-06 to 2006-07. The reason, officials said, is the inability of many schools to overcome “program improvement” status despite repeated efforts to raise student test scores. “I think it’s difficult to get out, but not impossible,” said Janis Fries-Martinez, the principal of Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, which faces mandatory reorganization because it’s been a program-improvement campus for five years. “It’s rigorous and the standards they’ve set are important, but I think that the benchmarks just don’t give you any leeway. If you’re making growth, that should play a part somewhere versus a high-benchmark target.” Fries-Martinez noted that Polytechnic has raised its API score from 473 in 1999 to 609 in 2006. However, the school’s 500 special-education students didn’t hit their target score last year so the campus remains in program improvement. “It just makes it frustrating. We’re out there working as hard as we can,” she said. Passed by Congress in 2001, NCLB makes states, school districts and individual schools more accountable for student achievement by setting annual progress goals. With a target of having all students proficient by 2013-14, the NCLB mandates escalating assistance programs – including taking over or even closing schools that repeatedly miss their target. Polytechnic has already lost its ability to hire staff and administrators. The 4,500-student campus also has been restructured into small learning communities in a move toward more personalized education. In addition, about 1,200 students are enrolled in after-school and Saturday classes designed to help struggling students catch up. In 2005-06, Los Angeles Unified accounted for 20 percent of all program-improvement schools in California – the most of any district, the report states. The percentage fell last year to 14 percent, but the district still remains at the top of the state list. Among California schools, 207 have missed progress goals for seven consecutive years and 10 have missed them for eight years. Just 10 schools made sufficient gains to overcome program-improvement status last year. The numbers of program-improvement schools in Los Angeles Unified has been increasing steadily, with 294 campuses now facing sanctions, officials said. Of those, 111 are in the first year of program improvement, 33 in the second year, 53 are in year three, 18 are in year four and 79 in year five. Program-improvement schools must meet goals for two consecutive years in order to overcome the designation. District officials said two dozen schools are eligible to exit program improvement, which will be determined when API scores are released next year. Seven schools exited program improvement this year, compared with five in 2005-06, six in 2004-05, and 13 in 2003-04. In its report, the Washington-based think tank recommended the federal law be amended to provide more help to struggling schools, including giving them credit for making improvements. [email protected] (818) 713-3722160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!