Can NCLB Choice Work? Modeling the Effects of Interdistrict Choice on Student Access to Higher-Performing Schools

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation stipulated that a
Title I school is in need of improvement if it fails to meet AYP for two
consecutive years, and that students attending those schools are eligible to
transfer to another public school within the district. How many students are
taking advantage of this provision though? A new report
by The Century Foundation found that fewer than two percent of the students
eligible to transfer to higher performing schools within their district did so
between 2003 and 2005. Also alarming is that an extremely small number of poor
and minority children took advantage of the choice option. In 2004-05, 11
percent of eligible white students took advantage of the NCLB option, compared
to only 0.9 percent of African Americans and 0.4 percent of Hispanics.

Part of the problem is that there is a short supply of
schools that are not in need of
improvement and eligible to receive transfer students. This report examines
whether expanding students’ access to higher performing schools across
districts would be a feasible policy. To identify which schools were eligible
to send or receive students under the NCLB choice policy, The Century
Foundation looked at all schools nationwide, excluding D.C. and Hawaii as they
each only have one school district, and magnet and alternative schools because
they operate under different admission requirements. The remaining schools were
then categorized by their AYP scores. Schools failing to meet AYP for two of
the last three years were identified as eligible sending schools (9.9 percent)
and the remaining schools were classified as eligible receiving schools (90.1
percent).

The report found that an interdistrict choice policy has the
potential to expand access to higher performing schools for students
nationwide. The analysis revealed that 94.5 percent of eligible sending schools
have no access to higher-performing schools under the current intradistrict
choice policy, and estimates that an interdistrict choice policy has the
potential to expand access and increase participation by almost five times
nationally, and by 14 times in Ohio. While interdistrict choice has the
potential to allow a significant number of kids to participate the report also
warns that if such a policy is not controlled and targeted to reach the kids
most in need, it could further intensify existing racial and socioeconomic
inequalities.

Can
NCLB Choice Work? Modeling the Effects of Interdistrict Choice on Student
Access to Higher-Performing Schools

A Century Foundation
Report
Meredith P. Richards,
Kori J. Stroub, and Jennifer Jellision Holme

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