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Who’s Movin’ Out?

A few posts back I ranted about the relatively few parents who are taking the option to move their kids to other schools when they one they’re attending is judged "failing" by the standards of No Child Left Behind. So who are the students that elect to move? In the overly large school district I work for, it seems as if almost all the transfers were kids without academic problems.

We had two schools which failed their AYP for two years in a row which, under the law, triggers the transfer option. At those two schools, 112 kids decided to move. However, with few exceptions, these were not students who were doing poorly in the first place. Of those 112 kids, only five failed any of the state standardized tests used for the assessment. (Other schools systems in the suburbs of Washington are experiencing similar numbers.)

According to one of the principal authors of NCLB, "the intent of the transfer option is to allow the poorest children in the lowest-performing schools a chance for a better education". Except that in the suburbs kids who don’t fall in that category are leaving for other reasons. Like… "I thought, this is an opportunity, why shouldn’t I try it out?" said Qureshi [an 8 year old]. "I just felt like maybe something was lacking there."

So, parents of students who are doing well in their current school move them because of a feeling generated by the failing label slapped on the school by the byzantine rules of NCLB. Or they don’t like the principal. Or the food in the cafeteria sucks.

I don’t have a problem with these parents making a choice to move their kids to a new school. However, under the NCLB process they also suck up resources that could be used to benefit the students who actually are in need of help. Just one more in the growing list of unintended consequences of this train wreck of a law.


  1. Tom Hoffman

    I don’t see the mobility options as a problem. It is just a very limited benefit for a few people. Nothing to get excited about either way.

  2. Dave Shearon

    It’s also true that minority students with early high acievement are THE most underserved in schools, at least in Tennessee. So, quite possibly, the students leaving are the ones with the most to gain by a transfer. Regardless, isn’t it possible that losing the higher-achieving students will motivate change at these schools disproportionate to their numbers? And, as a further question, to what extent do you think the underperformance of these schools is a result of lack of resources rather than poor leadership from the principal, high concentrations of less-effective teachers, poor or even hostile adult relationships and other such factors which could be addressed if the system tried?

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