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Will Some Schools Face Sanctions?

No Child’ results due this week; some Arlington parents could soon be considering transfer options.

Parents of some Arlington students will soon find out if their schools are meeting the standards set by the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB).

NCLB mostly affects Title I schools, schools that receive federal funds for math and reading support and have a high percentage of students who receive free or reduced lunches. If a Title I school does not make adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years, then its students will be given an option to transfer to another school within the school division.

Nine of Arlington's thirteen Title I schools are in danger of not making the results for the second consecutive year. However, the parents and the students will have less than two weeks to make a decision about the transfer. Arlington Public Schools planned to release the results of 2003-2004 later this week on the state web site.

Arlington Public Schools will inform the affected students and parents of their transfer options via mail. The letters will go out as soon as the results are calculated.

"We are still hoping to send the letters out on Wednesday [Aug. 18]," said Linda Erdos, the director of school and community relations for Arlington Public Schools.

"August 30 is the cut off date to let us know if you want a transfer," said Dr. Robert Smith, the Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools.

The school division has to stick to that date because time is needed to figure out transportation issues regarding the transfer students, Erdos said. "The transportation department needs time to notify parents where and when the bus will pick up their children."

“We have done a lot to try to educate the people about the law," said Smith at a press briefing held on Aug. 12. However, he said, most people will not know the law until it affects them. Once the results are released, the parents and students of those nine schools could be affected. They would then consider their transfer options. Last year, three percent of the students eligible for the transfer opted for it nationwide.

According to Arlington Public Schools, transfer students must be offered an option to one of at least two receiving schools. The receiving school must have made adequate yearly progress in 2003-2004, is likely to make adequate yearly progress in the future, has enough additional enrollment space based on projections through 2006-2007, and has to be within reasonable distance from the sending school. A list of receiving schools will not be available until the results are released.

"The federal government does not define reasonable distance," said Mark Macekura, the coordinator of special projects in Arlington Public Schools. He added that in Alaska some students are flown to their receiving schools.

There are twenty-nine benchmarks that a school has to meet in order to make adequate yearly progress. "If you don't make AYP in any one category," said Macekura, "then you don’t make AYP as a school." Arlington Public Schools officials are most concerned about schools not making adequate yearly progress being labeled by some as failing. Macekura said that a school that improves over the year, but still does not make adequate yearly progress, did not fail.

NCLB is a law that mostly affects Title I schools, because they are the only schools that might face sanctions for not making adequate yearly progress. Other than offering transfer options to its students, Title I schools must also offer supplemental services, such as tutors. Low-income students are offered these services first. If a non-Title I school does not make adequate yearly progress in two consecutive years, then it is required to develop improvement plans.

Schools that did not make adequate yearly progress last year, and do make it this year, are still considered to be in their first year of improvement. In order for a school to exit the improvement status, it needs to make adequate yearly progress in two consecutive years.

On the national level, NCLB has attracted much controversy. A survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, and sponsored by Results for America, shows little support among parents for NCLB. Only ten percent of the parents polled showed support for increased spending on NCLB, while 52 percent would prefer that the money be spent on smaller class sizes. 34 percent of the parents polled say that NCLB punishes schools for failures, rather than rewarding them for success.