Staying Put

Under No Child Left Behind, any school that gets a "failing" rating (excuse me… is deemed "in need of improvement") two years in a row must offer parents the option of moving their children to another school. However, it seems that relatively few parents are making the choice to transfer their kids. This fall in Los Angeles City Schools, only 215 students moved to new schools out of the 204,000 who were eligible. A similar small percentage of parents in other large school systems choose the transfer option.

As you might expect, people on both sides of NCLB have lots explanations for the lack of interest on the part of the parents. This one makes the most sense.

Critics say the low numbers of students taking advantage of the offer, however, reveal a significant flaw in the law: Policymakers misunderstand the importance of neighborhood schools to parents.

"The law does give real power to parents. It’s just not a power they are willing to use very often," said Tom Loveless, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "The choice provision of the law is not … going to revolutionize schools."

Most parents understand that a school is far more than just the artificial numbers generated by a standardized test and that just shuffling kids around will not by itself improve their education. It certainly does nothing to improve the schools – no matter how often W and his friends chant the mantra of "competitive marketplace forces".