Choice without Options

Posted on December 14, 2006 | Author: Arwynn Mattix
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Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), students attending schools that don't make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two consecutive years can transfer to better performing schools within the district.

For the 2004-2005 school year, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) reported 135 schools were in need of improvement the label given to schools that have failed to make AYP for two years.  Over 65,000 students attended those schools and all were eligible for the transfer option.

Of those 65,000 students, only 30, a mere fraction of one percent of those who qualified, actually transferred.  Parents may be either uninformed or unimpressed with the transfer options. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, districts have a responsibility to communicate with parents clearly and fully about school options and to help them make informed choices.

But offering parents different options within the same district often provides no genuine choice at all.  Take, for example, the Roosevelt Elementary District, in which 10 out of 20 schools were labeled underperforming or worse in the 2004-2005 school year.  The remaining 10 schools were labeled performing, only one step above underperforming. Choosing between bad and really bad isn't much of a choice.

Students shouldn't have their transfer options limited.  Policymakers should give parents the opportunity to send their children to whatever school--public, charter, or private--they believe offers the best education. 

Arwynn Mattix is a research assistant at the Goldwater Institute.

Key Links:

-Goldwater Institute: No Child Left Behind and Arizona: Making State and Federal K-12 Accountability Systems Work
-Ed.gov: Innovations in Education: Creating Strong District School Choice Programs

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