Few parents accept school transfer option

Of 2,300 eligible pupils, 63 apply

49 say yes

No Child Left Behind Act

Gorman Crossing due 18

Stevens Forest to get 11

Howard County

July 31, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Fewer than 50 Howard County children will transfer this fall from six struggling schools to other elementary schools in the district under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Of the 2,300 county children who were eligible under the new public school choice law to opt out of schools with low test scores, 63 applied for transfers this summer. School officials said all of the requests were honored and that 49 families accepted.

Seven families that applied for transfers declined the option after school officials notified parents of the receiving school. Seven families did not respond.

"Overall, the fact that it's not a very high number is basically what we expected," said school spokeswoman Patti Caplan. "Other than that, it's really hard to draw any conclusions from it." Six Howard elementary schools were eligible to participate in the program established by last year's No Child Left Behind Act.

The law allows parents to transfer their children to higher-performing schools from schools that have high poverty levels, receive Title I funding and fail to improve their scores on achievement tests for two consecutive years.

Parents from those schools could apply for transfers, but the school system selected where those applicants would be sent. Here is the breakdown:

Longfellow Elementary will receive one child from Bryant Woods and six children from Swansfield.

Stevens Forest Elementary will receive 11 children from Dasher Green.

Gorman Crossing Elementary will receive 18 children from Guilford.

Thunder Hill Elementary will receive two children from Phelps Luck and 11 from Talbott Springs.

Children were moved to schools with higher test scores as close to their home schools as possible, Caplan said, "so that they would be in a feeder system, if possible, and return to the same middle school they would have gone to anyway."

Parents could not suggest on the transfer application where they wanted their children to go. "This was not going to be open choice," Caplan said.

The transfer legislation allows school districts to give first priority to pupils who are among the schools' lowest-performing and from families earning the lowest incomes.

Each tier of priority consistently favors low-performing and low-income pupils to those who are affluent and are doing well in school.

In Howard, however, most of the transferring children are doing well in school and come from families who are financially stable.

Of the 49 who accepted the transfer option, 10 were in the highest priority of low-income, low-performing; 16 were low-performing, but not low-income; four were low-income, but performing well; and 19 were neither low-income nor low-performing.

Some parents have been grumbling that they were not aware that the school choice law applied to all children in the eligible schools, not just those in the highest priority category.

Caplan said administrators plan to take that into account next year, to ensure all families understand the rules.

"We have had people calling after the deadline," Caplan said. "But we have to stick with the process. Unfortunately, there is no other way to do it. This was our first time doing this, as well, so there may be some updating next year. [However], we feel that we have met the letter and spirit of the law."

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