Cano explained there are nine categories to identify a student At-Risk, only one will trigger classification
By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
The public may be surprised to learn that 71 percent of students enrolled in USD No. 480 are considered At-Risk students. But, what does At-Risk mean? Director of Federal Programs Laura Cano explained the process of tagging a child as At-Risk and how very easy it is for a student to receive such a label during Monday evening’s board of education meeting.
“In terms of At-Risk students, 71 percent of our students are considered At-Risk,” Cano said. “Some of you are wondering, ‘What really is At-Risk?’ There are specifically nine criteria that can target a student as At-Risk. It only takes one of those criteria to be flagged so that we have that child as an At-Risk student.
“The first one is if a student is not working at grade level,” she explained. “All of our kids take the MAPP test in reading and in math. If they don’t come out as working on grade level, that is one of the things that can flag them as At-Risk. Another thing that can tag them At-Risk is if they are failing three or more classes and those classes include reading or math in any nine-week period. If students don’t meet requirements for graduation or they are a potential drop out, that can tag a kid as At-Risk. Not meeting standards on state assessments in reading and math will tag them as At-Risk. If we have any student that has been retained, they are automatically considered an At-Risk student. If they have a high rate of absences, five or more, in any one semester, that can flag them as At-Risk. If they have repeated suspensions or expulsions, in or out of school, that can consider them At-Risk.”
Two other factors have nothing to do with a student’s behavior, simply not understanding the English language can hinder a student from moving forward at a typical rate.
“A migrant student is automatically targeted as At-Risk and, of course, ELL students,” Cano said, “Our big number with English Language Learners is we have 2,146 students, all of those students are automatically tagged as At-Risk. I think that is why our numbers are so high.”
In order to adequately educate children that are fiercely trying to catch up with their fellow students by learning the English language, USD 480 has stepped up its ESL program.
“It takes a lot of money to endorse our teachers, I would like you to know that 55 percent of our teachers are ESL endorsed – 146 have it on their certificate, but we have 53 teachers that are right now working on becoming ESL endorsed,” Cano said. “We invest a lot of money into it, we pay for their tuition, provide them with books, and once they take the test and bring us a passing score, we reimburse them for that.
“They benefit in multiple ways,” she added. “They get graduate level course work, which moves them over on the pay scale. Then in turn, we get to receive funding from our ESL students because our teachers are endorsed, and our students get better instruction from teachers.”
At-Risk students are not just left by the wayside to remain labeled as such, USD 480 has implemented many programs in an effort to remove the At-Risk label from these students’ files. Project Best, Supplemental Education Service and preschool services are just a few programs that USD 480 actively pursues.