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June 2, 2004 Extra Credit
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June 2, 2004

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Free Guide Provides Advice for Implementing Effective NCLB School Choice Programs

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement is pleased to offer a new guide on public school choice, titled Creating Strong District School Choice Programs. Under No Child Left Behind, if a school does not meet its state-defined academic achievement targets for two consecutive years, that school is defined as "in need of improvement." At that point, parents must have the option of moving their child to a public school in the same district that has met its achievement targets. And the district must provide transportation for these students.

Creating Strong District School Choice Programs shares practical advice and concrete examples from five school districts that have been successful in creating and expanding public school choice initiatives and making them work for students and parents. It also has information on how to avoid some of the pitfalls that school districts may face in addressing the needs of all students, a requirement under NCLB.

The Milwaukee Public School System, for example, improved the letter it sends home to parents alerting them of their options by deleting "legalese" that was in the previous year's version and making it easier to understand. Milwaukee's "Frequently Asked Questions" and "Parent Letter and NCLB Transfer Request Form" are both included in the guide as models for other districts to use. Milwaukee also is listening to parents' ideas and concerns and creating more K-8 schools, adding specialty programs and before- and after-school programs, as well as increasing neighborhood safety.

This guide provides advice in four basic areas, suggesting the "first steps" to take and how to "go deeper." The four key actions in implementing public school choice are helping parents make informed choices, building school district infrastructure, supporting schools, and improving programs over time. Among the first steps to take to inform parents, according to the publication, is for school districts to implement a multi-faceted communications strategy on the NCLB choice options. To enhance school districts' infrastructure, suggestions include determining space and transportation options and starting new schools and programs.

Those interested can order a free copy of Creating Strong District School Choice Programs by:

  • Calling the U.S. Department of Education's Publications Center (ED Pubs) toll-free at 1-877-4-ED-PUBS (1-877-433-7827); TTY/TDD: 1-877-576-7734; FAX: 1-301-470-1244;
  • Ordering online at: www.edpubs.org; or
  • Writing to request a copy: ED Pubs, P.O. Box 1398, Jessup, MD 20794-1398.

This publication is also available online.

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 06/03/2004