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One of the four pillars of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is options for parents in educating their children. Under No Child Left Behind, local school districts must offer certain parents of students attending Title I schools identified as in need of school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring the option of selecting "public school choice" or "supplemental educational services" (SES) for their child. Access to these options by parents depends on two factors: student eligibility and the status of their child's school. For public school choice, all students enrolled in Title I schools that are in the first year of school improvement and subsequent years may participate. For SES, students from low-income families who are enrolled in Title I schools in the second year of school improvement and subsequent years are eligible.1
Public school choice gives parents of eligible students the option of transferring their child to another public school in their district. The transfer options available to parents through this provision of the law may include traditional public as well as charter, magnet, or virtual schools that are not identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring. If more than one transfer option exists, a district must offer more than one choice to parents. Districts must pay for or provide transportation to the new school, subject to funding limitations.
Supplemental educational services are provided outside of the regular school day to increase student achievement and may include assistance such as tutoring, remediation, and other academic interventions. Parents of eligible students may obtain these services for their child free of charge from an approved SES provider of their choice. State education agencies (SEAs) are responsible for approving SES providers and providing local districts with lists of approved providers serving their area.
The public school choice and SES provisions of No Child Left Behind are integral components of district efforts to improve schools and increase individual student achievement. By expanding the field of schools available to parents, public school choice gives schools a greater incentive to undertake the reforms needed to improve student learning. By providing opportunities for students to receive additional high-quality instruction outside of school, SES also makes a key contribution to districts' improvement efforts. Both provisions aim to give students access to high-quality learning environments.
1 Title I schools are schools that operate programs funded under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as reauthorized by No Child Left Behind. Title I schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in meeting state standards for two consecutive years are identified by their state education agency (SEA) as "in need of school improvement," and public school choice becomes available to students in these schools. Title I schools that fail to make AYP for a third year enter the second year of improvement status and must offer SES to eligible students along with public school choice. Title I schools that continue to fail to make AYP are subsequently identified for corrective action (after four years of not making AYP) and restructuring (after six years of not making AYP). Public school choice and SES options must remain available to parents of eligible students in these schools until the school is no longer in school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring. Title I schools exit improvement, corrective action, or restructuring status after making AYP for two consecutive years.