Students to Finally Get Transfers From Failing Schools
by Chastity Pratt, Detroit Free Press, March 15, 2004
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Schools has finally figured it out. It may have taken all school
year, but within a week the Detroit district will send letters
letting parents of students at poorly performing schools know
which better ones their children may attend, officials said
Nearly 1,000 students who have waited a year to be transferred
from academically struggling schools will get a response from
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, public school
districts must allow students to switch to better schools if
theirs fails to meet annual yearly progress standards. The
district also must provide busing if necessary.
It took so long to resolve the situation because officials had
to figure out which schools had space to accommodate the
requests, said James Humphries, interim executive director who
oversees spending for special programs that help low-income
children in the district.
"This wasn't an easy process," Humphries said. "We've gotten it
pretty much under control. It should be a lot faster" next year,
Students whose parents want them moved should be in new schools
by the end of next month, Humphries said.
In August, the district sent letters to 78,000 homes, notifying
parents that their children qualified for busing to a better
school because theirs failed to meet standards. By September,
parents of 942 students requested a transfer and busing.
Since then, officials have looked for schools for those students
who attend 130 failing middle and elementary schools.
After reviewing data, officials recently identified 50
better-performing schools with enough space to take the
transfers, Humphries said.
Compared to other U.S. urban districts, Detroit lags when it
comes to figuring out this process. This school year, in 41
cities required to transfer students, 40 percent of those
requesting a transfer were moved by January, according to a
report by Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of
Great City Schools in Washington, D.C.
San Diego, a district of 138,000 students had 39,000 eligible
for transfers. Detroit's district has 151,000 students.
Sandra Robles, manager of enrollment options in San Diego said
of the 484 transfer requests officials received last spring and
the 200 received in the fall, most of the students were placed
in new schools within two months.
"I wouldn't say it's impossible," Robles said of placing the
students. "But it is more difficult once school starts."
Michigan State researcher David Plank, who studied the transfer
issue in Detroit, said the slow response means Detroit risks
losing students to charter, private and suburban schools; the
district has lost 20,000 students during the past decade.
But if parents leave because the transfer process is too slow,
the exodus won't be significant because there are so few
requests in the first place, Plank said.
"In the grand scheme of things it's not a big deal," Plank said
of Detroit's delay. "But with an individual kid who would like
to go to a different school and finds herself not being able to,
then that's a cause for alarm."
Natasha Anderson was so alarmed by the district's slowness to
transfer her son and brother -- a third- and an eighth-grader --
that she took them out of the district.
She asked for the transfers from their failing schools during
the 2002-03 school year and never got a response, so she
enrolled them in school in Pontiac last fall.
"They never got to me. They said they were going to send
something to me in the mail; they never did," Anderson said.
Linda Brown, assistant director in the Office of School
Improvement at the Michigan Department of Education, said the
state won't know for sure until June how many students moved to
better schools due to the law.
That's when the state will collect the data on the transfers and
report it to the federal government, Brown said.
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