soon to be e principal Lisa Dale of the trauncy riddled Omaha Benson High school complains about info on Benson (Monroe: credit)
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Principal Lisa Dale acted quickly after the low graduation rate at Omaha Benson High http://www.ops.org/high/benson/ landed the school on Nebraska's list of “persistently lowest-achieving schools.”
Dale wrote teachers a memo suggesting that they disregard poor grades on homework and in-class work if seniors had scored passing grades on exams and other assessments.
Omaha Public Schools Superintendent John Mackiel, who learned of the e-mail from The World-Herald, said Dale's suggestion was the wrong response to the Obama administration's program for identifying the country's struggling schools and directing money to them to improve student achievement.
Although Mackiel has sharply criticized the labeling of lowest-achieving schools as bad education policy, he said Dale — who is leaving to become principal at Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs — should not have suggested that teachers change the grading expectations set for Benson students at the start of the year.
“Any change at this point would not be appropriate,” he said.
The labeling of Iowa and Nebraska high schools, released May 5, has added a sense of urgency to the already frantic final weeks of the school year, when high school teachers and principals scramble to identify seniors on the brink of failing and help them do what it takes to graduate with their classmates.
Nebraska Education Commissioner Roger Breed, who declined to comment directly on the Benson situation, said this eleventh-hour rush to help struggling students is common in high schools.
However, Breed said students don't suddenly reach the brink of failing in the last two weeks of school, and a better approach is to provide help to those students all four years.
On Monday, OPS is expected to make public its official response to the listing of Benson http://www.ops.org/high/benson/
three other OPS high schools and an elementary school. Mackiel said that since informing principals two weeks ago of their schools' inclusion on the list, he has not given them any formal direction on how to respond.
The Nebraska Department of Education designated 52 schools as “persistently lowest-achieving” under federal rules for accepting economic stimulus money. The list includes 28 high schools.
Omaha's Central, North, South and Benson all made the list for graduation rates below the 75 percent set by state officials.
Iowa, which used the 60 percent graduation rate set by federal officials, listed 130 senior high, middle and elementary schools.
Nebraska sought and received a waiver from the federal guidelines and set the threshold at 75 percent. Listed schools are eligible for federal grant funding. Nebraska education officials said they wanted to make more high schools eligible.
To receive the funding, districts must agree to take steps prescribed by the Obama administration, such as staffing changes at schools on the list. Some schools turned down the money rather than replace staff.
Last week, after The World-Herald obtained a copy of her e-mailed memo, Dale said she was not asking teachers to dumb down their grading to raise the school's graduation rate in response to the listing.
Most of her e-mail centers on urging teachers to reach out to students who are “in striking distance of a passing grade.” She calls on teachers to insist that failing seniors stay in school an extra week to attempt to earn their credits before Benson's graduation on Monday.
“This may involve phone calls home, contacts with counselors and administrators and any other means necessary to establish the expectation that students will stay until the credit is earned,” she wrote.
She notes in her message that the school's graduation rate — 62.5 percent — was “the reason we're on the list.”
Dale said her suggestion to judge students based on chapter tests, midterms, finals and projects — as opposed to homework, notes and other classwork — follows “best practices” gaining acceptance in the district and across the country.
“This is consistent with conversations we've had all year long,” Dale said. “This is not the first time I've said to my staff, ‘I think you really need to consider how you include homework and how much you weight it in the final grade.' ”
Mackiel said district officials have, in fact, discussed a new grading approach to reduce the weight of homework on grades and more reliably gauge a student's knowledge.
But Dale's e-mail did a “disservice” to those discussions by tying them to Benson's inclusion on the “lowest-performing schools” list, Mackiel said.
Until the school board adopts a new comprehensive grading policy, he said, suggesting that teachers change the way they do things is “premature.”
Lisa Dale like some OPS board members are really mad at the results cause it shows how incomptent they are.
she is trying to shift the blame from herself and the staff and students at Benson High.
secondly, I blame the parents of Benson High http://www.ops.org/high/benson/ and Monroe Jr. high and other troubled schools like those two's kids for not getting more involved in their children's education.
btw: where are the so called Omaha Benson High Alumni Assocation http://bensonbunnies.com/ when Omaha Benson High needs them? oh, that's right. they only show up to help Benson High when there is fundraising for the school.
would be curious what they think of Benson 's education problems and it's trauncy problems and dropout rates
Last edited by billiefan2000; 05-23-2010 at 01:04 PM..
Location: Omaha Nebraska and dreamland when I am sleeping
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Heineman, Mackiel in war of words
By Joe Dejka and Michaela Saunders
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITERS (and OPS apologists)
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman defended the state's naming of four high schools in the Omaha school district as “persistently lowest-achieving,” saying the listing will open the door to funding that Omaha Public Schools officials have repeatedly said they need.
“In the 5½ years that I've been the governor of this state, I've only heard one issue from the Omaha Public Schools: How do we get more money; that money will solve all of our problems,” Heineman said in an interview with The World-Herald on Friday. “Well, here was an opportunity to get money, so why are they objecting?”
OPS Superintendent John Mackiel, who has sharply criticized the listing as bad education policy that needlessly stigmatizes schools, said on Monday, in response to the governor: “If that's all he's heard, he hasn't been listening.
“As long as we keep the conversation at this level,” Mackiel said, “the legitimate needs of our young people go unaddressed.
“If we don't want to talk about lead contamination, drug or alcohol abuse or the mental health services or the foster care services that have all but imploded in this state and are impacting student attendance, then keep the conversation at this level of disregard for the work of a school district,” he said.
Mackiel told the Omaha school board Monday the district is unlikely to receive any of the $17 million in federal stimulus money available to Nebraska schools, though it may be eligible for teacher-training funds.
Fifty-two Nebraska and 130 Iowa schools were listed as “persistently lowest achieving.” Education officials in both states were required to develop the lists to receive their final installments of federal stimulus money.
The minimum grant available to a school is $500,000 a year for three years. Because OPS schools were not listed as the highest priority, the money could run out before the schools are funded.
Mackiel said, however, that each of the Omaha high schools listed — Benson, North, South and Central — plus an Omaha elementary school could get up to $17,333 in teacher-training funds.
He plans to talk with the principals of those schools this week about their training plans for summer and whether it makes sense to use the grant money. The district must decide by late July whether to accept the teacher-training funds, he said.
If the money is turned down, Mackiel said, Susie Buffett's Sherwood Foundation has pledged the same amount for teacher training. Foundation representatives listened in on the board's 90-minute discussion Monday.
Mackiel called the list another example of “the belittling, the blaming and the labeling of urban education.”