NYC DOE Will Not "Allow" Transfers in September 2004
Isn't this a violation of the No Child Left Behind legislation?
New York City Will Limit Chance to Leave Failing Schools
By ELISSA GOOTMAN, NY TIMES, July 17, 2004
New York City, which last year allowed every child who wished to transfer out of a failing school to do so, will drastically reduce the number of students allowed to move this year, education officials said yesterday.
The decision comes after a year in which some principals complained that an influx of students transferring under a new federal law, No Child Left Behind, had overcrowded and undermined the city's more successful schools and run up millions of dollars in busing and other expenses.
Last year, city officials said, more than 7,000 students transferred to better schools. Next year, however, the city will probably allow fewer than 1,000 transfers, with priority going to poor children with low test scores.
The schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, said in a statement yesterday that "this year's plan to implement the transfer provisions of No Child Left Behind will provide increased educational opportunities for students in struggling schools, while ensuring that the transfer process does not destabilize other schools within the system.''
During the 2003-4 school year, New York City went further than other major cities in trying to adhere to the transfer provision of the federal law. Chicago, for example, offered transfers to 1,100 of 19,000 eligible students.
Some critics said early on that New York City risked harming its better schools in allowing so many students in them.
Next year, children who are allowed to transfer will most likely switch schools after school has begun, some as late as October. That is because the city is waiting for a new list of failing schools, which state officials said they expected to release in late August. Last year, most students had already transferred by the time the state released its latest list, based on 2002-3 test scores. That list classified as failing 43 additional schools that receive federal poverty money and therefore fall under the transfer provision of the law. The list brought the total number of failing schools in the city to 497, or more than 40 percent. Because the federal government judges schools not only on how they fare overall but also on the performance of different segments of the school population, the list of failing schools includes schools with good reputations.
Reaction to the department's new policy, which is expected to be discussed next week with officials from the school system's 10 regions, was mixed among education advocates and public officials. Some experts said all children should be allowed to transfer from failing schools. But others lauded the new limits, saying that New York City had suffered for its decision allowing so many transfers. The city's Department of Education said that last year it spent close to $20 million on transportation, labor and other costs of allowing children to transfer from failing schools.
"Parental choice in the abstract sounds great, but in the practical application if your child ends up in a school that is now grossly overcrowded, that's not so great for the child either," said Assemblyman Steven Sanders, a Manhattan Democrat who is chairman of the Education Committee.
Michele Cahill, Mr. Klein's senior counselor for education policy, acknowledged that fulfilling the transfer policy this year was "a challenge," and that problems were created "in some particular schools."
"We are trying to be sure that there really are available seats when we offer a transfer," Ms. Cahill said. "We're happy with how it went this year in many ways. We are working to improve the schools and improve how the specifics of this kind of implementation will go next year."
Some principals said part of the problem was that officials used outdated numbers to determine if they had extra room in their schools for new students.
"They never asked, they just simply sent children based on erroneous information," said Jill S. Levy, president of the city principals' union. "Our understanding is that some schools were impacted rather heavily." She added that "principals are held accountable for students' scores, but they haven't had these children long enough to really make an impact."
James A. Kadamus, a deputy commissioner of the State Education Department, said the city's new policy conformed with the federal education law, which he said allowed leeway in situations where transfers could impinge on a receiving school's health and safety conditions.
Nina S. Rees, the deputy under secretary for the federal Education Department's office of innovation and improvement, said federal authorities do not compel schools to accept transfer students if the influx would cause safety problems. She added that it would be New York State's responsibility to ensure this was the case for city schools that said they had no room. She suggested the city offer students whose transfer requests are rejected other options, like virtual schooling or, as a last resort, tutoring.
Even last year, the 7,000 or so transfers - officials said it could be as high as 8,000 and that they did not have a precise figure for how many children transferred under the law - amounted to a fraction of the 300,000 students who were eligible to transfer. Many of the other students chose instead to take advantage of free tutoring. City education officials said that they would encourage parents to seek tutoring, instead of transfers, next year. Children who transferred last year can remain at their new schools.
Ms. Cahill said she expected transfer requests to decline because of the changes under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's overhaul of the city school system, including literacy and math coaches in each school, extra teacher training and a uniform curriculum in all but the best-performing schools. There are 1.1 million children in the city schools.
"The closer you get to a system of 1,200 strong schools the fewer disappointed parents and kids you have," Ms. Cahill said. "That's what we're working for."
But some parents say they do not want to wait.
"I'm very upset; my daughter right now, she's not going to get the help that she needs in this school," said Tiphani Jackson, who said she has been calling various school officials for months to find out how to transfer her daughter, Ashanti Smith, 8, out of her elementary school.
Eva S. Moskowitz, chairwoman of the City Council education committee, said she felt strongly that children like Ashanti should be allowed to transfer. "My fear is that this is a step backward in terms of the implementation of choice for poor parents," Ms. Moskowitz said.
Under the new plan, each of the city's 10 regional superintendents will be asked to identify empty seats in the schools they oversee, Ms. Cahill said.