Experts to examine Ravenswood district

A team of education experts will soon assess and suggest improvements to the troubled Ravenswood City Elementary School District, one of 97 school districts in the state that have consistently failed to meet federal standards on standardized test scores.

Last month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended light to severe sanctions for 97 California school districts for the first time under the federal No Child Left Behind Act because they have failed to meet achievement goals for five years. The recommendations were approved by the state board of education Thursday.

Ravenswood, which serves around 4,500 kindergarteners through eighth-graders in Menlo Park and East Palo, and six other districts face the harshest sanctions, ranging from implementing a new curriculum to abolishing and restructuring the district. Ravenswood has only met 13.3 percent of the benchmarks in reading and math, according to the Department of Education.

The state board also announced that Ravenswood will receive some of the approximately $45 million earmarked for improvements to the 97 school districts, which educate about a third of California’s 6.3 million students.

“We will be working immediately to get this money out to the districts,” said Chris Bertelli, an education spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“The recommendation is that [Ravenswood] receive a state-appointed assistance provider and that that provider come back with a plan and recommendation,” Bertelli said. “It will be a significant team of people charged with assessing the district’s personnel, governance structure, academic performance and why they are where they are.”

The team will then report their recommendations to state officials, who will have the final say on what steps will improve education for the region’s students.

Ravenswood Superintendent Maria De La Vega said she was surprised the school district made the list since it has improved its test scores during the past two years. The state budget deficit stands at $16 billion and Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting $4 billion in the budget year beginning July 1.

The action by the state board Thursday comes a day before a committee established by the governor releases its report on ways to improve the state’s education system.

maldax@examiner.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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