The Champaign School District, lawyers, plantiffs, and court monitor filed the 64 page report yesterday. It includes creating a task force to look at who's getting in trouble and for what problems. Ultimately... It wants to cut the number of suspensions. The report says the groups plan to start meeting next month on how to add classrooms on the north side. They also want to work with local groups to get minority families more involved. This report comes..under pressure from the court.
A judge rejected the one the district turned in last October, asking them to come back with plans that are detailed. He wanted to see how the district planned to meet the consent decree requirements by 2009.
In the newest report, it outlines a lot of programs already in place, but there are some new plans like more testing. For one education expert, that may not be the best solution for the consent decree. Doctor James Anderson heads the Department of Educational Policies at the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana. He's been involved with several consent decrees outside Champaign and feels the district here was smart in not fighting the case in court; instead agreeing to parents' demands. Anderson says that's because, "you open Pandora's box when you go to court, it's a big risk, I think if you reach a settlement, that is the least pleasing to the district, best way out of it all." He admits, though, it comes a a big price. "Everybody should be concerned about it I think the most important thing is try to make the best of it."
In Champaign's court order, like many others, the district must raise student achievement scores, but Anderson fears the emphasis on testing to check scores is too much. He feels its because, "testing has almost come a religious faith", and to him it's a leap of faith that falls short. "I'm not convinced it's helping, we all have to ask the following question, at the end of of the day do they write better, better critical thinking skills, better problem solving skills do they do math better?"
To critics, the answer is no, and it may be an easy trap to fall into because it's an easy way for schools to say they're doing something. Anderson believes any court order is tying up the hands of the staff, "when it's said and done it becomes a problem, it's like a yolk around the school district." Doctor Anderson characterizes court orders like a band-aid, a quick fix.
He says, when it's all said it done, it's not the court or lawyers who can fix the problems, it's parents and the community.
He feels the solutions are outside testing. He feels we need to invest in more programs, including after school and in the summer so students don't lose what they learned during the school year. He says we need to make kids more well-rounded, not teach them just to pass tests.
To see a copy of the outline of how both sides plan on meeting the court order, click here. You can also find all the other documents filed in court regarding the consent decree on that webpage.