Consultant brought in to lend a hand

Chapman Elementary SchoolChico school officials are hoping a consultant can pull Chapman Elementary School out of the doldrums.

Dave Reise, a retired school administrator with 39 years of experience, has been hired by the Chico Unified School District to help develop and implement a plan to improve low test scores at the school.

Reise, who was curriculum director and assistant superintendent in the CUSD, said he will work with the Chapman staff for 60 days over the next six months to help create what he calls an instructional leadership team of five to seven members to improve scores in one of the school’s sub-groups—English-language learners.

“We’re looking at the issue of governance,” Reise said. “It’s much better than closing schools or hiring new teachers.”

Reise said the team will be comprised primarily of teachers from intermediate, immersion and special programs at Chapman. He added that members will be selected by an outside interview team and will deal primarily with curriculum, instruction, assessment and school organizational issues.

Because Chapman is in its fourth year as a “corrective-action school” (CAS), it is required to implement a plan for an “alternative-governance” system, which could include reopening as a charter school, replacing all or most of the staff, contracting with an outside entity to run the school or even state takeover.

In 2004, Chapman’s scores in the Academic Performance Index (API) didn’t meet federal requirements for adequate yearly progress (AYP). The school actually showed the second-highest growth in the district, going from an API of 591 in 2003 to 617 in 2004, but scores fell short in its English-language-learners program.

Under the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act, schools are held accountable if non-English-speaking students don’t perform at sufficiently high levels of reading and writing comprehension each year.

Reise said Chapman has been a great school for years but is one of the neediest because of the diversity and socio-economic status of its students. He said the remainder of the 2004-05 school year will be spent assembling the group and organizing a plan and that actual work won’t get underway until the following year.

Alan Stephenson, director of elementary education for CUSD, said it’s far too early to determine what specific measures will be taken, but that the district is hoping the plan will serve as a template for future schools if and when they enter a fourth year as a Corrective Action School.

“Dave’s skills as a facilitator are what we’re counting on,” Stephenson said.

The consultant agreement was to be considered for approval at the Jan. 5 meeting of the CUSD Board of Trustees, after CN&R press time. According to the agreement, federal Title I dollars will pay Reise’s $25,000 salary.