The Modesto City High School District must open its doors to scrutiny and a team of education experts beginning this summer.
The state Board of Education approved a package of interventions proposed by Gov. Schwarzenegger last month for 97 underachieving school districts in California.
Those districts have fallen short of test targets set by the federal No Child Left Behind law for the past five years. They are split into four groups under the plan: those facing severe, moderate, light and other action.
The Modesto City High School District is part of Modesto City Schools. It consists of Beyer, Davis, Downey, Enochs, Johan-sen and Modesto high schools and Elliott Alternative Education Center. The district and Planada Elementary School District in Merced County will face moderate sanctions.
The two districts will have a hand in picking a state-approved team to examine everything from teacher quality to curriculum. The teams then will recommend changes to the state Board of Education.
The details are being worked out, but Modesto school officials expect their team to be in place for at least one school year. Superintendent Arturo Flores said he expects to begin developing a plan to boost high-school student achievement with the intervention team by June.
Flores and three other Mo- desto school officials attended Thursday's board meeting in Sacramento.
"I think we have our edict," Flores said. "It forces us to focus and re-examine some of the programs that have been in place for some time, to see if they're meeting the needs of the kids. It's not going to be something that occurs overnight."
Modesto City Elementary, Merced City Elementary and Atwater Elementary school districts are in the light category, which means they will receive more specialized assistance for groups of students who consistently post low test scores.
In Modesto schools, that means students learning English and those with disabilities.
The state now must release $45 million in federal funding promised to school districts to pay for the reforms, Flores said.
"We're a district of declining enrollment that just cut $12 million," Flores said. "They have to take those things into consideration as well."
Schwarzenegger vowed last month to make California the first state to embrace the penalty aspect of No Child Left Behind. But he said state leaders had worked hard to make sure the penalties were in proportion to the problems in each district.
The seven school districts facing the harshest sanctions, which could include replacing administrators or a takeover by the state, are: Greenfield Union Elementary in Monterey County, Arvin Union Elementary and Fairfax Elementary in Kern County, West Fresno Elementary in Fresno County, Ravens- wood City Elementary in San Mateo County, Keppel Union Elementary in Los Angeles County, and Coachella Valley Unified in Riverside County.
The districts facing sanctions educate about a third of California's 6.3 million students, nearly half of whom are considered poor. About a quarter do not speak English fluently.
In his State of the State address in January, Schwarzenegger said he would make California the first in the nation to embrace the authority it was given under the federal law "to turn these districts around."
"No more waiting," he said. "We must act on behalf of the children."
Schwarzenegger has focused on the plan as the state struggles with a budget deficit that largely derailed his proposed "year of education reform" and forced him to propose major cuts to education.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.