One of the key provisions of the No Child Left Behind legislation holds that if a school has been declared a "failure", the parents have the right to have their children transferred to a better-performing school. But what happens if there is no "better-performing" school available? That’s the situation of a small school system in North Carolina where the only transfer option is to send the students to another district – and that district refused to accept the students. Since most schools are under local control, the concept of students "escaping" their poor schools is yet another poorly thought out provision of NCLB.
The experience in Weldon suggests the depth of entrenched local opposition to school choice, as the Bush administration refers to its plan for offering parents an alternative to failing schools. It also illustrates the formidable practical difficulties in implementing the concept, particularly in small school districts.
Although the obstacles to school choice may be greater in Weldon than elsewhere, the number of students changing schools under the No Child Left Behind law is minuscule nationwide. In rural areas, it is often difficult for parents to find more acceptable schools without traveling great distances. Even in urban areas, good schools are often crowded and reluctant to accept students from "failing" schools.
The obstacles to providing school choice are likely to grow significantly next year as more schools fail to meet the goals of No Child Left Behind for the second successive year. North Carolina officials project that as many as 488 schools in the state could be required to offer school choice, up from 36 this year. In many districts, there will be no alternative to the "low-performing schools."
There is much more in the article about the history and experience of the two North Carolina districts. In the end, however, a parent in Weldon has the right approach to no child left behind (the idea, not the law).
Edwards, the Weldon meat cutter unhappy with the education his children are receiving, says he does not want to send them to a school system he perceives as "unwelcoming." Rather than push for school choice, he is looking for ways to ensure they can receive a quality education in Weldon.
A "quality education" in every school. What a great concept! However, it will take more time, work and money – not to mention major alterations to the structure of public education – than this short-term plan to move kids around like pawns on a chess board.