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Behind the Numbers: The Story of SES and Choice

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Bigswifty has posted all the numbers on supplemental educational services and public school choice. You have everything you need to solve the math problem I posed last week.

The issue of participation in these services is about more than math. One potential reason for the participation rates (17 percent in SES and 1 percent in choice) is that districts are doing a poor job of informing parents that their children qualify for SES and choice. That's what advocates for those services say.

Research in last week's reports suggest that they may be right. Fewer than a third of districts notified parents before the beginning of the school year that their children were eligibile to transfer, according to research conducted by the RAND Corp. that was included in the report. On the SES side, RAND found that 27 percent of parents reported that they hadn't been notified about their children's eligibility for tutoring through the SES program. (RAND put out a press release summarizing its findings.)

Communication may not be the main reason for the low participation rates. Eduwonkette lists the reasons why many parents aren't interested in exercising their choice options. Parents are satisfied with their neighborhood schools, she says. I hear from school officials that it's difficult to get kids interested in the tutoring, even if it is free.

The Department of Education is trying to increase participation in SES and choice. States participating in the growth-model project must explain what steps they'll take to promote those programs. States in the "differentiated accountability" project will have to do the same. But those projects reach a relatively small number of states.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has addressed growth models, differentiated accountability, and high school graduation rates. Will SES and choice be next?

2 Comments

A few years ago one of my friends had a daughter that attended Parkwood Elementary. My friend received a letter saying that her child had a choice of going to Linwood because Parkwood had failed to make AYP for a second year. After looking into the matter further I found that Linwood also failed to make AYP. I was livid and perplexed as to why the district would send a child from one failing school to another so I brought it up before the local BOE. I also know my friend kept her child at Parkwood because nobody told her that the school district is responsible for transporting the student to the other school. The school district is not going to share all of the information with the parents about choice or supplemental education services because at the end of the day, it all comes out of Title I funding that they have already allotted for "other" things like administrative salaries for a Title I Director and the Parent Involvement Coordinators. I may sound cynical, but when you have a Title I Director making $95,000 a year and the Distric Parent Involvement coordinator bringing in more than $55,000, and to have over a half million dollar carry over from one year to the next just makes me a bit leery as to what is really going on behind all of those closed doors.
Additionally, parents honestly do not know what to ask, they still are very trusting that everyone is looking out for their child's best interest. In fact a friend of mine told me today that she was not worried about her son passing the 5th grade because of NCLB. I said NCLB only means by the year 2014 every child in school will have met the average score to meet standards on state tests at the students grade level. She said, "Oh, why didn't anyone tell me."
Of course I reminded her of our chats and I will continue to remind her, for the sake of her children.

Kathy:

Your experience aligns with my own. I have lobbied my district for several years to hold parent meetings to explain and get input into the School Improvement Plans--which, as I understand it is required under NCLB.

The district/schools regard this as too much trouble, something that parents are not interested in, or cannot understand. I think that the reality is that few teachers/building administrators have bothered/have the time to really understand what NCLB does/requires. At the same time, they have a stake in believing that parents don't know/don't want to know much about education. And when it comes down to it, if parents know, then they are less easy to manipulate.

I say "go ahead" to you Kathy, and to any parents who are working to hold schools accountable.

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