One provision of the No Child Left Behind law says that if a school is declared "failing" for any reason, the parents of the students must be given the option to move them to another school that is not failing (with the district paying for transportation). In Michigan it seems that very few parents are making the choice to transfer their kids. In the Detroit city schools, for example, only 930 students in the 130 eligible schools asked to move.
Another example of this reluctance to move from "failing" neighborhood schools showed up last month in Clark County, Nevada, the huge system that includes the city of Las Vegas (and where I started my career, once upon a time). In that district only 15 kids out of a potential 6000 accepted the offer to transfer. Nationally, a report shows that only two percent of the students eligible to transfer in the 270 districts surveyed make the choice to leave their school.
So why would parents want to keep their kids in a school which they’ve been told is not doing a good job educating their kids? As always, the reasons are many and varied. Officials in both stories speculate that many parents don’t want their kids leaving the neighborhood, especially since the nearest available school could be a long bus ride away. Another reason could be that parents don’t understand their options. Maybe many of the parents in these communities didn’t read the letter from the school district in the first place.
But there also might be a simpler, more basic motivation for keeping their kids in the “failing” schools.
Prospero Santiago says he understands his choice to take his daughter out of Hall Elementary School, which does poorly on tests. But he says he likes the Grand Rapids school because it is free of violence and it’s easy to communicate with teachers because many of them speak Spanish. “Parents can bring their problems here to the school,” Santiago says through a translator. “To stay here, it would be wonderful. She is happy, very happy,” he says of his 11-year-old daughter, who will go to middle school next year.
It’s possible that many parents like Mr. Santiago realize that a school is far more than just test scores.