Tuesday, July 02, 2002

California Dreaming

1009 California schools have failed to meet state academic standards for two consecutive years. Parents of students who attend these schools will now have the option, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to choose and attend a higher-performing school in their district.

Joanne Jacobs points out that in most places this public school choice is meaningless. "In most districts, the good schools have no empty seats. The kids will remain stuck -- unless they get vouchers sufficient to pay private school tuition or new charter schools are created."

Schools in California are notorious for rejecting school transfers due to overcrowding.

There are more than 8,000 schools nationwide that have been designated as failures. One important caveat about the "number" of failing schools in each state is that state criteria for what constitutes a failing school is not equivalent. It depends on what each state counts as "adequate yearly progress." There is a wide variation in state standards for improvement. If a state has a low number of failing schools--it might be more of a reflection of low standards than high-performance by that state's schools. An analysis of the definition of failing schools on a state-by-state basis would give a more accurate picture of which states are being truthful about their school failure rates. It is possible that a failing school in one state might be a low to moderate performing school in another state.

Michigan, with 1,500 failing schools, might be a case in point.

"I don't think we're ashamed of the number," T.J. Bucholz, spokesman for the state Department of Education told the Lansing State Journal. Bucholz says the numbers are due to the state's tough academic standards.

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