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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education
ccarney@indiana.edu
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Last modified: Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Part of the No Child Left Behind “choice” provision is no choice at all for most

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 16, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Many parents don't know about school choice options under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, and many schools can't offer them, according to a new report from Indiana University researchers.

The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) in the Indiana University School of Education has issued those conclusions in a new policy brief titled "Outcomes of the School Choice and Supplemental Educational Services Provisions of NCLB."

Under NCLB, public schools that don't make "adequate yearly progress" face sanctions. After two consecutive years of such standing, the school district must offer school choice -- an option to transfer to another school (one not identified as needing improvement under NCLB). The school must notify parents of the choice options and provide transportation to the new school.

Schools must provide supplemental educational services (SES) after failing to meet progress standards for three straight years. Under this provision, low-income students must have access to after-school tutoring services, which may be provided by a private company. Both provisions are part of the overall discussion occurring in Congress now about re-authorization of NCLB.

Across the country, the study found that participation in the programs is extremely low. "We're talking about participation rates at below 5 percent in most cases," said Justin Bathon, co-author of the report, referring to public school choice. Bathon is an attorney and associate instructor in the department of educational leadership and policy studies in the IU School of Education. Terry Spradlin, CEEP associate director for Education Policy, is the other co-author.

Terry Spradlin

Terry Spradlin

The report found that of 3.9 million students eligible for school choice during the 2003-04 school year across the country, only 38,000 participated. Other studies cited in the brief indicate 2 percent or fewer eligible students transferred to another school. Bathon said that's a great concern since the choice provision is one of the few NCLB measures that present options to parents. Many parents, Bathon said, are simply not aware that they have this option under the law.

Since minority and other high-need students tend to comprise the populations in struggling schools, Bathon said special education and English language learners might be particularly impacted by the lack of implementation. The report also indicates schools have a hard time handling the capacity of the programs, both in the additional administrative burden and funding constraints. Rural areas are particularly having a hard time meeting the NCLB requirement of choice and SES.

"In rural areas, you typically do not have school choice being an option because there's not a multitude of schools to pick from," Bathon said. "Private supplemental education service providers are unlikely to set up shop because it's unlikely they'll make money in rural areas."

Bathon said urban areas have higher participation rates. He recommends lawmakers tweak the law during re-authorization to encourage more providers to work in rural schools. The report also recommends schools do a better job of communicating to parents that the school choice and SES options are available.

Some of the proposed changes being considered by Congress to revamp NCLB strengthen the choice and SES provisions while others weaken them, Bathon said. He said they are likely to remain in a re-authorized bill, but they may switch order.

"It looks like supplemental educational services will become what's offered first, and school choice will become what's offered next, after SES has already been implemented," Bathon said.

The full report may be viewed at:http://ceep.indiana.edu/projects/PDF/PB_V5N8_Fall_2007_EPB.pdf

About CEEP
CEEP promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. To learn more about CEEP, go to http://ceep.indiana.edu.

MEDIA OUTLETS: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at http://site.educ.indiana.edu/news/tabid/5663/Default.aspx. Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."

Bathon says the provisions are particularly difficult to meet for schools outside of cities:
"There's a concern about rural areas. In rural areas, you typically do not have school choice being an option because there's not a multitude of schools to pick from -- we're taking public school choice. And also in rural areas, private supplemental education service providers are unlikely to set up shop because it's unlikely they'll make money in rural areas."

More must be done, Bathon says, to encourage providers to bring supplemental services to rural areas:
"How they're being offered in rural areas in terms of maybe going into neighboring districts, maybe providing some additional transportation to take you, give you a little more range in terms of school choice. Maybe setting up additional provisions to encourage SES providers to locate in rural districts. I think that's one of the largest problems. You're seeing very high concentrations of school choice and SES in large urban areas, and so, in order to improve the participation rates, you have to expand school choice and SES beyond the urban areas into the suburbs and to the rural areas. So if we can make a conscious push towards that, I think you could see a vast improvement in the participation and eligibility."

One change that could take place in the reauthorization of NCLB is switching the order in which SES and school choice are offered, Bathon says:
"Most likely, it looks like supplemental educational services will become what's offered first, and school choice will become what's offered next, after SES has already been implemented. That change is probably going to happen. There's been a lot more debate about this too, as the reauthorization process is under way. In some drafts, you see strengthening these provisions. And then in other drafts from other entities, when they put out their recommendations, they're absent. So it really sort of depends on your political leanings on how you feel about these provisions, but most likely, these provisions are going to remain in No Child Left Behind and, going forward, school choice and after school tutoring will exist in some form."