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15th September

First Published in The New York Sun, September 15, 2003

By Andrew Wolf

Appearing on WNBC-TV yesterday, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein suggested that complying with the federal No Child Left Behind law is among his toughest challenges. Next year, that challenge may get tougher still.
When the state Education Department released a new list of “troubled” schools last week, it may have greatly diminished the available schools to which children in low income “failing” schools may transfer under No Child Left Behind.

Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the state Education Department, appeared surprised when asked by The New York Sun if schools appearing on the state’s new list of “Schools Requiring Academic Progress,” could still be included on the list of schools that children attending the “failing” schools could transfer to.
According to Mr. Burman, after checking the law, the answer is no.

“The regulations state that children cannot transfer into other schools that are themselves in need of improvement,” he said.

The new list is comprised of schools that are not eligible for Title I assistance.That eligibility is determined by the percentage of children in the school qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch. Most of the newly identified schools are located in middle-income areas. The creation of the new list represents the first time non-Title I schools have been designated as falling short academically.

This year, 374 Title I schools in New York City were identified as deficient by the State Education Department under complex criteria. This can include the failure of a school population segment, such as race, gender, or immigration status, to meet state academic targets.

Children in those low-income schools covered by may transfer into higher performing schools, or receive supplemental services such as tutoring. The new list of non-Title I schools is comprised of 123 additional schools, among which are some of the city’s most highly regarded, such as Brooklyn’s Midwood High and Forest Hills High School in Queens.

Throughout the city, parents of more than 8,000 students exercised the option to transfer. While the specific data is not yet available, hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of students have transferred into the schools on the new list of non-Title I underperformers under No Child Left Behind.

One of those schools is the Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy in the northwest Bronx, a resurgent neighborhood school covering grades 6-12. About 30 No Child Left Behind students were assigned to the overcrowded school. At the same time, more than 50 neighborhood children remain on a waiting list, hoping for a place in the school’s ninth grade, at this point a highly unlikely prospect.

According to Randi Martos, a parent leader at the school who has served as Parents Association president, “it is terribly wrong to close the door on neighborhood children who should be able to attend their local school by right, while assigning their places to children from other communities.”

Under federal rules, overcrowding cannot be used as a reason not to transfer No Child Left Behind students into a school.

Last Monday, Mayor Bloomberg heard similar complaints from residents of Woodlawn, a working class enclave on the Bronx-Westchester border. Residents there were concerned that the influx of children from outside of their community to P.S. 19, which serves grades K-8, would destroy the neighborhood character of the school.

But that influx may well have been just a one-year phenomenon. Both P.S. 19 and the Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy appear on the new list of Schools Requiring Academic Progress, most likely because one or more of the subgroups failed to meet state targets. Presumably those two schools, and the 121 others on the new list, will not be options for the intake of No Child Left Behind transfers next year.
Students in schools on this new list do not have the right to transfer, nor will they receive special services such as tutoring. Even children at these schools identified as coming from impoverished households are similarly ineligible.

© 2003 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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