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Washington families could switch schools under new state rules

Submitted by on 1, August 31, 2010 – 5:00 amNo Comment

Parents with students at Washington Elementary School could seek to send their children to higher-performing schools in the district – or anywhere else in California – thanks to a state law put into effect just a few weeks ago.

The Open Enrollment Act approved by legislators in January allows families whose schools are placed on a list of California’s 1,000 lowest performing schools to apply for placement in higher-performing schools inside or outside their school district. The State Board of Education adopted emergency regulations on July 30 in order to put the law, which was drafted as part of a package of reforms legislators enacted in a failed bid for federal Race to the Top funds, into effect this school year.

The regulations require school districts with schools on the list to tell families on the first day of school that they have the option to seek new school placements, something Superintendent Kirsten Vital told the school board last week she planned to do at Washington. But the law, which grants school districts the right to set written standards for acceptance and rejection of applications, doesn’t require school districts to guarantee slots at specific schools.

Alameda Unified already allows families to apply for transfers to other schools in the district. In 2009, 590 of the district’s 9,900 students were in schools outside their neighborhood attendance zone for a variety of reasons, including parental requests.

Vital couldn’t be reached for more information Monday, though she later said the district wouldn’t be implementing the transfers until next school year. Washington had an academic performance index score of 777 in 2009, making it the lowest-performing elementary school in the district and the only one to not attain a score of 800 or higher, the state target.

The list has been criticized by some because its design excludes many schools that performed more poorly than schools placed on it, including 11 schools that were on the list despite meeting or exceeding the state’s target score of 800. Charter schools are excluded from being on the list, and it can only include 10 percent of any given district’s schools.

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