Bridges4Kids Logo

 
Home ] What's New ] Contact Us ] About Us ] Links ] Search ] Glossaries ] Contact Legislators ] Reviews ] Downloads ] Disabilities ] IDEA ] Special Education ] Medicaid/SSI ] Childcare/Respite ] Wraparound ] Insurance ] PAC/SEAC ] Ed Reform ] Literacy ] Community Schools ] Children At-Risk ] Section 504 ] School Climate/Bullying ] Parenting/Adoption ] Home Schooling ] Community Living ] Health & Safety ] Summer Camp ] Kids & Teens ] College/Financial Aid ] Non-Public & Other Schools ] Legal Research ] Court Cases ] Juvenile Justice ] Advocacy ] Child Protective Services ] Statistics ] Legislation ] Ask the Attorney ]
 
 Where to find help for a child in Michigan, Anywhere in the U.S., or Canada
 
Bridges4Kids is now on Facebook. Follow us today!
 
Last Updated: 11/20/2017
 

Article of Interest - No Child Left Behind

Printer-friendly Version

Bridges4Kids Logo

No Child Left Behind Puts School Districts in a Bind
by Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, September 16, 2003
For more articles like this visit http://www.bridges4kids.org

 

Thousands of parents in the Bay Area and millions nationwide are receiving letters from their school districts saying their children have a right to transfer immediately from their low-achieving schools to better ones.

The transfer option is a cornerstone of the federal Education Act, dubbed "No Child Left Behind," meant to hold schools more accountable and offer more choices for parents. The act mandates new tests, new rating systems and even state takeovers as methods to improve low-performing schools.

The transfer letters, required by the act for the first time this year, go to families at 1,135 California schools that fail to meet state testing standards two years in a row and that receive federal Title I money earmarked for poor kids (parents can find out if their children qualify for transfer by checking their school's performance on the California Department of Education Web site, www.cde.ca.gov/ayp/2003/titleone).

Many districts are struggling to cope with the demands of the act, and the transfer letters often contain inconsistent, vague and sometimes contradictory details that may reflect the district officials' own confusion about the new requirements.

"It's a good idea, but it's not really working," said Linda Lewis, director of special projects with the Vallejo City schools.

Under the law, districts may not claim overcrowding to deny students the right to transfer. And by law, districts are supposed to communicate the transfer option to parents in an "easy-to-understand format."

But districts and parents are finding that there's nothing easy about the transfers.

EXPLANATION NEEDED

"Parents are overwhelmed with information from the schools," said Marin Trujillo, social services director at Dover Elementary School in the West Contra Costa school district. "My opinion is that most parents probably did not read the letter. They should hold a meeting and explain it."

And most districts -- given that potentially all the students at low- performing schools could demand a transfer -- would rather play down the option.

A sampling of Bay Area letters shows that some districts bury the key information about transferring under many paragraphs of glowing praise about a student's current school.

Some districts, such as Oakland Unified, warn parents that "only a limited number of students" will be allowed to transfer. Some, such as Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto, say students can transfer only "where there is space available."

Others fail to tell parents whom to contact if they do want to move. And many letters arrived late -- or have not yet arrived -- even though the law says they must be sent before school starts. At least one district, Vallejo, originally had planned to deny transfers altogether this year.

Parents of children at Enola Maxwell Middle School, one of 30 San Francisco schools whose students are eligible for transfer, will find no information about the option until the bottom of Page 2.

"The letter is insulting," said Karen Reiter, whose daughter, Barrett, 11, attends Maxwell in the city's Potrero Hill neighborhood. "They should be straightforward -- say, 'This is the law,' and stop with the build-up."

In Vallejo, director Lewis intended to send a letter Thursday to families at five elementary schools without mentioning the transfer option. But the district has been able to reverse that decision.

"Our enrollment is down so much that I'm finding I have openings we hadn't anticipated," Lewis said, adding that a revised letter would go out in about two weeks.

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

The U.S. Education Department requires that districts "must make choice available for students not later than the first day of the school year" and that "parents should be notified well before the beginning of the school year."

The federal government may be a bit starry-eyed about that, state educators say. With thousands of districts struggling to implement the myriad rules, problems are inevitable, said Maria Reyes, of the California Department of Education, head of the office responsible for compliance.

For example, California used to wait until mid-year to figure out which schools to place in the state's improvement program. But now that districts have to notify parents in those schools about transferring, the state rushed to compile the data by August.

"Even though we made a valiant effort to move the time line, we know it's just impossible to notify parents before school starts," Reyes said.

In another possible bending of federal law, Oakland school district officials told parents that they were limiting transfers because of overcrowding.

But the U.S. Department of Education says "every student" who attends an eligible school and wishes to transfer "must have that opportunity." If the demand for transfers is too great, the district "must create additional capacity or provide choices of other schools."

ANOTHER INTERPRETATION

Yet, in what may be the most confusing interpretation yet of the new law, Reyes said that as long as districts notified families about their right to transfer, they did not have to actually let them transfer.

"A school district can't say we have no room, sorry," Reyes acknowledged. "However, the law does not say that you have to create space for every child. What we tell school districts is to document that they made the effort."

The effort may be all that's required by most parents anyway.

An informal survey of parents who received letters suggests that many appreciate their children's schools, regardless of achievement.

"It's really been good for my daughter to walk to school," said Reiter, whose daughter attends Maxwell in San Francisco. "She owns a piece of this neighborhood now."

Felisha West of Oakland got one of the district's letters but said she had no intention of transferring her second-grader, Nicole, from Brookfield Village Elementary.

"I know that our school didn't meet our (academic) target," West said. "But it's a very good principal here. We all work together."

West said she and many other families were comfortable with the schools in the flatlands, where lower-performing schools are typically located.

"Parents should be careful when they make the move," West said. "But you have to know your child's needs and how the school is run. You can't expect your child to succeed just because it's a hill school."  

   

back to the top     ~     back to Breaking News     ~     back to What's New

 

Thank you for visiting http://www.bridges4kids.org/.
 

bridges4kids does not necessarily agree with the content or subject matter of all articles nor do we endorse any specific argument.  Direct any comments on articles to deb@bridges4kids.org.

 

2002-2017 Bridges4Kids