Board seeks waiver of SAGE class size capsSuperior’s school board requested a SAGE waiver, learned about an extra day of school Monday.
By: Anna Kurth, The Daily Telegram
Superior’s school board requested a SAGE waiver, learned about an extra day of school Monday.
Members approved the administration’s request to seek a waiver from its Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) requirements.
SAGE is a program that promotes academic achievement in elementary school among low income children by providing $2,250 per low-income child to help them keep their kindergarten through elementary school classrooms at a ratio of 15 or fewer students to one teacher. Superior is not in compliance with the SAGE requirements in half of the classes in its five SAGE schools.
The district, along with others in the state, has often not met SAGE requirements since the state launched the program during the 1996-1997 year.
This year, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is auditing schools in the program and requiring those that do not meet the 15-1 requirement to seek a waiver, which would allow a school four years to come up with a solution for meeting its SAGE requirements.
Superior school district is seeking its waiver to allow more flexibility in meeting the SAGE class size rule at its five SAGE schools Bryant, Cooper, Great Lakes, Lake Superior and Northern Lights elementary.
It will be difficult for Superior school district to meet the 15-1 requirement. Based on this year’s numbers of classes over the limit, the district would have to hire 11 additional teachers at the cost of $877,000 to meet the requirement, said Superintendent Jay Mitchell.
If the state approves the waiver, nothing will change for elementary students next school year. It just allows the district to operate its SAGE program as it has in the past, he said.
Next fall the district will assemble a group to investigate ways to meet the SAGE requirements, he said.
It’s difficult to offer the program in any other way. The district can’t move students around to different schools to meet the SAGE requirements and teachers will resist flexible scheduling because it means moving students around within the school, he said.
Flexible scheduling, or grouping, is an option that would put students in math and reading programs with a 15-1 or fewer ratio, then move them into larger classes for the rest of their day.
The option would allow the district to comply with SAGE since the 15-1 ratio is only required for math and reading. The district would explore this option and also the impact of eliminating SAGE, according to the district’s waiver request.
The SAGE law is difficult to meet any other way because it would require small schools with few sections to hire a third teacher if classes go over the limit by one or two students. The state can’t expect a school board to hire another teacher to meet 15-1, he said.
“They need to think of a way to fix this legislatively,” Mitchell told the board.
Mitchell also said that students are expected to attend school April 25. The day was originally scheduled for staff development, but students need to attend because of Friday’s weather-related cancellation.
Students have missed three days of school because of bad weather this year and must make up one of those days, he said.
Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.