April 18, 2006

April 18, 2006 | WebMemo on Education

School Choice and Supplemental Services: Administration Slow to Hold School Districts Accountable Under NCLB

The Alliance for School Choice and Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education recently filed complaints against the school districts of Los Angeles and Compton, California, for not complying with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 (NCLB).[1] The complaints allege that these school districts have not fully implemented the public school choice and supplemental educational services provisions of NCLB for students stuck in failing schools. The data confirm this charge. In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), only 315 out of the 257,636 students stuck in failing schools participated in public school choice in the 2003-04 school year. Since the enactment of NCLB, LAUSD has received hundreds of millions of dollars in Title I, Part A funding. As the Alliance for School Choice argues, the Department of Education should withhold future Title I funding from school districts until they comply with NCLB.

 

The Provisions

NCLB promised to make public schools more effective teaching institutions by holding schools accountable for student academic performance. Schools would face competition because students would have other options when their schools were not adequately helping them achieve. Specifically, failing schools now have to offer public school choice and supplemental educational services to their students.

 

NCLB requires school districts that receive federal Title I funding to offer public school choice within the district to students at schools that fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two consecutive years. In the third year of failing to make AYP, school districts must still offer public school choice and must also offer supplemental educational services. Congress added these provisions to NCLB so that students stuck in failing schools would have the chance to receive a better education. Under NCLB, up to 20 percent of Title I, Part A funding can be used for public school choice and supplemental educational services.

 

Implementation Problems

Despite providing over $46.6 billion in Title I, Part A grants to school districts from fiscal years 2002 to 2005,[2] the U.S. Department of Education has had little success in getting school districts to comply with the choice and supplemental education provisions of NCLB.

 

According to the General Accountability Office (GAO), in the 2002-03 school year, about 1 percent of all students eligible for public school choice had transferred out of their failing schools.[3] Similarly, the National Assessment of Title I: Interim Report by the U.S. Department of Education found that less than 1 percent of the 3.9 million eligible students in the 2003-04 school year participated in public school choice.[4]

 

One explanation for these low participation rates is the lack of timely parental notification by school districts. In the 2004-05 school year, "Only 29 percent of affected districts notified parents about the school choice option before the beginning of the 2004-05 school year. Another 21 percent notified parents at the beginning of the school year, which would have given parents very little time to make important decisions about which school their child should attend."[5] Further, "The remaining 50 percent of districts notified parents after the school year had already started; in these districts, notification occurred, on average, five weeks after the start of the school year."[6]

 

The implementation of supplemental educational services appears to have had only slightly greater success. For 2003-04 school year, less than 17 percent of eligible students participated in after-school tutoring.[7]

 

The Los Angeles Unified School District

The Heritage Foundation filed a California Public Information Act request earlier this year with LAUSD for data on the number of children taking advantage of public school choice and supplemental educational services under NCLB. The numbers are revealing.

 

  • Public School Choice: For the 2002-03 school year, 104 of LAUSD's 678 schools failed to make AYP for two consecutive years. These schools served 221,472 students, or 29.7 percent of LAUSD students.[8] Only 218 of these students took advantage of public school choice-just 0.10 percent of all who were eligible.

    For the 2003-04 school year, public school choice participation improved little. That year, 111 of 695 schools failed to make AYP for two consecutive years. These 111 schools served 257,637 students, or 34.5 percent of LAUSD students.[9] Only 315 students participated in public school choice-just 0.12 percent of those eligible.
  • Supplemental Educational Services: In the 2002-03 school year, just 3.9 percent of the 164,434 students eligible to receive after-school tutoring actually participated. In the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years, tutoring participation increased to 7.1 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.

 

LAUSD has failed to implement NCLB's choice and supplemental education provisions despite receiving hundreds of million of dollars in Title I funding. According to the U.S. Department of Education, LAUSD received almost $1.2 billion in Title I, Part A funding during fiscal years 2003 to 2005.[10] Up to 20 percent of this, or $239 million, could have been used for public school choice and supplemental educational services.

 

The Department of Education is well aware of this situation. A Freedom of Information Act request by The Heritage Foundation revealed a 2003 letter from then-Acting Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok to LAUSD Superintendent of Schools Roy Romer that criticizes LAUSD's plans to use little Title I, Part A funding for after school tutoring.[11] According to the most recent data, LAUSD, to the detriment of students trapped in its failing schools, is still implementing NCLB's choice and tutoring provisions too slowly.

 

Conclusion
Parents in Los Angeles and elsewhere deserve the parental choice options promised to them under federal law. If LAUSD fails to comply with these provisions, federal funding under NLCB should be withheld from the school district. Moreover, federal and state policymakers should provide parents with real school choice options through additional student-centered reforms. Students trapped in persistently failing public schools deserve a real opportunity to transfer to better schools.

 

David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D., is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.



[1]"Spellings Test," Wall Street Journal editorial, March 24, 2006, p. A10.

[3] Marie S. Shaul, "No Child Left Behind Act; Education Needs to Provide Additional Technical Assistance and Conduct Implementation Studies for School Choice Provision," Report to the Secretary of Education, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accountability Office, December 2004), GAO-05-07.

[4] Stephanie Stullich, Elizabeth Eisner, Joseph McCrary, and Collette Roney, National Assessment of Title I Interim Report, Volume I; Implementation of Title I, (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Educational Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, U.S. Department of Education, February 2006), p. 64

[5] Stephanie Stullich, Elizabeth Eisner, Joseph McCrary, and Collette Roney, National Assessment of Title I Interim Report, Volume I; Implementation of Title I, (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Educational Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, U.S. Department of Education, February 2006), p. 67.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Stephanie Stullich, Elizabeth Eisner, Joseph McCrary, and Collette Roney, National Assessment of Title I Interim Report, Volume I; Implementation of Title I, (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Educational Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, U.S. Department of Education, February 2006), p. 64

[8] The student population estimates are from on the author's calculations based on data from U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey: School Year 2002-2003.

[9] The student population estimates are from on the author's calculations based on data from U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey: School Year 2003-2004.

[11] Letter from Acting Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok to LAUSD Superintendent of Schools Roy Romer, October 31, 2003. Available from the author upon request.

About the Author

David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. Research Fellow in Empirical Policy Analysis
Center for Data Analysis

Related Issues: Education