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Published in Print: August 7, 2002, as Rules of Choice

Rules of Choice

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The "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001 contains new requirements for public school choice. Here are selected highlights of how the rules are supposed to work.

When? If a Title I school fails to make "adequate yearly progress" as defined by a state for at least two consecutive years, the district must provide the school's students with public school choice and use a portion of its Title I aid to pay for transportation.

Where? Generally, within the same district. Draft regulations would require districts to offer more than one option if at least two district schools have not also been identified as low-performing. If no other district schools are available, however, the district must, "to the extent practicable," arrange for interdistrict choice. Such districts are also encouraged to provide other educational options.

A school is exempt from receiving students only if it is at "capacity," a definition based on health and safety requirements, not class-size limits. The district must weigh parents' preferences in assigning a child a new school.

Who? All students in a low-performing school are eligible, but districts must give priority to the lowest-achieving students from low-income families.

How long? If a student transfers, the district must allow the student to remain in the receiving school until the student completes the school's highest grade. But the obligation to provide transportation ends once the school from which the student transferred is no longer identified as low- performing.

How much? Unless less is needed, a district must spend at least 20 percent of its Title I money to pay for choice-related transportation, supplemental services, or a combination. (If a school doesn't make adequate progress for at least three years, the district must allow parents to select a supplemental-service provider, and foot the bill.)

Vol. 21, Issue 43, Page 39

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