Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You Can't Escape If You Don't Know Soon Enough

Chad Aldeman has a post on The Quick & the Ed today (Apr. 1) about an Obama administration retreat on options for children to escape failing schools. As Aldeman puts it:
Secretary of Education [Arne Duncan's] letter rolls back a regulation that could have helped provide parents of children enrolled in unsuccessful schools the option of choosing a better one.
Aldeman explains the retreat by asking us to use our imaginations to consider a parent in the following situations:
  1. [I]f you're a parent, imagine going through the school registration process in the fall, buying supplies for your child, and believing that your child will begin attending school X. Then, on the first day of school, your child brings home a letter that says her school failed to make adequate yearly progress last spring, and she now has the option to transfer to another school.
  2. Instead, imagine you, as a parent, were notified at least two weeks in advance of the new school year.
The second scenario -- adequate notice -- is what the Bush administration's regulations called for. With adequate notice, you as a parent would be in a much better situation:
You would have time to consider your options, visit new schools (maybe even new teachers), and plan transportation. You might be altogether more interested in exercising your right to choose [a better school for your child].
The Obama administration's retreat traps parents (and their ill-served children) in scenario #1. This retreat also exacerbates another important problem: late reporting of test results.
[Secretary Arne Duncan's letter] makes it less urgent for states to turn around test results promptly, which has implications beyond just an under-used school choice provision. Late data results also penalize schools labeled in need of improvement, because it gives them little time to implement a real school improvement plan.
There you have it: less school improvement and less opportunity to escape failing schools.

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