Just before the holiday season, some 5,500 Birmingham middle school students received an early gift: the option to leave their failing schools. The city's school system was planning to offer students in its 17 low-performing middle schools voluntary tutoring, rather than the option of transferring to one of the district's better-performing schools. A community group complained to the U.S. Department of Education, which promptly ordered the Birmingham school system to offer the youngsters their NCLB-guaranteed option to transfer. The district said it was simply trying to avoid a mass exodus and overcrowding with the tutoring offer, but the excuses sound disingenuous. This past August, BSS sent 3,000 letters to children locked in failing elementary schools offering them a transfer, and only 23 took them up on the offer. Some "exodus." Gadfly has faith that the Magic City can find a way to accommodate those middle school students who might just desire a better education than their chronically failing schools provide. Kudos to the feds for not backing down from this one.

"U.S. orders city to allow middle school transfers," by Gigi Douban, Birmingham News, December 21, 2005

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