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Getting a head start
Under No Child Left Behind, districts are required to notify parents of eligible students of their public school choice options no later than by the beginning of the school year. In many cases, districts need to receive school AYP results from the state before knowing which schools are identified for improvement and thus which students are eligible for public school choice. As states often do not provide AYP results until shortly before the school year starts, districts are often faced with tight timelines for notifying parents, and many do not begin to implement transfer requests until well into the school year. Districts confronted by these circumstances should, at a minimum, begin the planning process for implementing public school choice well before release of AYP results. Following are some ideas for districts to help ensure that parents can make choices as early as possible.
Determining which schools may serve as transfer options regardless of latest AYP results. Each spring, districts should know if there are schools that can serve as transfer options for the following fall regardless of the latest AYP results (i.e., Title I schools that have not missed AYP or non-Title I schools). Districts should be able to inform parents well before the school year starts that these schools are transfer options. Districts also should consider working with principals to prepare these schools for receiving transfers for the next school year.
Implementing public school choice early for students in schools that cannot exit identified status. Districts also know which schools cannot exit improvement, corrective action, or restructuring status regardless of latest AYP results (i.e., identified schools that did not make AYP for the prior school year's AYP determinations, as schools must make AYP for two consecutive years in order to exit identified status). Students in these schools will continue to be eligible for public school choice, and nothing should prevent districts from offering public school choice and implementing transfer requests by parents of these students in advance of release of AYP data. Indeed, a district should consider offering public school choice to parents of students in such schools at some point during the prior year, and may choose to make such offers coincide with offers of other choice programs that do not depend on AYP data.