June 19, 2002 | WebMemo on Education
States and school districts must implement the school choice provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act (P.L.107-110) at the beginning of the new school year. Some states and school districts will go the extra mile to ensure that students in failing schools have many options from which to choose. However, not all states and districts will comply with enthusiasm. Some may provide a bare minimum of options, restricting the number of supplemental service providers or erecting bureaucratic hurdles to dissuade parents from transferring their children to another school.
State-based think tanks, advocacy groups, community organizations, and parents can actively monitor the implementation of the choice provisions, thereby ensuring that families receive as many opportunities as possible. According to the law, schools identified as in need of improvement under the old law (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1994) will have to offer students the option of transferring to a non-failing school within the district beginning in the new 2002 school year. The district must supply transportation to the new school of choice. Schools currently under "corrective action" will have to offer their poor students the option to receive supplemental services such as tutoring. Districts must notify parents of the availability of supplemental services and the list of providers. They are required to help parents establish an agreement with the provider that sets goals, a schedule of progress reports, and payment terms.
To ensure that children across the country receive the maximum benefit from the legislation, it will be necessary to monitor and encourage states and districts to comply with the law in a timely and thorough fashion. The following describes the steps that need to be taken in establishing an effective "Implementation Watch."
By following these steps, concerned parents and advocates can play a critical role throughout the implementation of the No Child left Behind Act and, by doing so, ensure that children gain access to good schools and needed services.
Krista Kafer is Education Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.