The No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) was passed under the Bush Administration with the idea that standards-based education reform would improve student outcomes in education. Amongst the stipulations under the measure was that school systems must offer students in high-poverty schools with the option to transfer to higher performing schools. Prince George’s County was presented with an unprecedented number of transfer requests for the 2010-2011 school year. The Washington Post reports:
The issue arose in Prince George’s County this year, when the parents of nearly 3,000 middle-schoolers learned just days before school started that they could switch their children to the only two non-specialized middle schools in the county that met the law’s performance goals. About 200 families accepted the offer, taking their new schools by surprise.
The flurry of transfers – more than 700 in Prince George’s this year across all 12 grades – has packed classrooms while underscoring a tough aspect of the Bush administration’s landmark education initiative. It demands steadily rising achievement – all students are supposed to pass benchmark tests by 2014 – and, as a result, more schools fail every year.
So students hop to more successful schools, leading to dwindling populations and funding for the weakest schools and crowding for the better ones.
School leaders are concerned that the moves could jeopardize any fragile progress at the failing schools. And parents of children at the successful schools worry that the wave of new students will overwhelm teachers and drag down the only programs that are meeting the new standards.
The school system is using $1.3 million of its federal Title I funds on busing students to their new schools.”Our whole philosophy has been options and opportunities for parents,” said Prince George’s Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. “It’s a conundrum for us, how to do this inside of a structure where there are fewer and fewer options” as No Child Left Behind becomes stricter.
Hite said the influx of transfers “adds a strain to those schools that are actually doing well,” calling them “overwhelmed.”
For more information on how transferring is affecting Prince George’s County and other school systems nationally, click here.