How Quirk in School Choice Law Will Affect U-46

By Malone, Tara | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

How Quirk in School Choice Law Will Affect U-46


Malone, Tara, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Tara Malone Daily Herald Staff Writer

Two months after Illinois Park Elementary closed its doors for good, state education officials wagged a finger at the west Elgin school's lagging test scores and required students this year be given the option to transfer into a better-performing school.

But many of Illinois Park's 500 students never will have such a choice.

Nor will some students who last year attended nine other Elgin Area School District U-46 buildings now laboring under academic sanctions rooted in the spring's state assessment scores.

Why?

School boundaries change and students with them, but the right to switch to a higher-scoring school extends only to youngsters now in a building slated for choice.

That's true, education experts say, even if kids now in schools required to offer choice are not the same kids who failed to meet state learning standards, thus triggering the transfer remedy.

"Right now the law is built so choice is tied to schools," said Gerald Chapman, associate dean of Roosevelt University's education school.

Officials at the Elgin-based district similarly interpreted the federal No Child Left Behind law, which seeks to narrow the gap between low- and high-performing schools.

"Eligibility for choice is tied to schools, not to the students themselves," said Larry Ascough, assistant superintendent for community relations. "It's your choice to opt out of a school that is not meeting high expectations, but if you're not in that school, you don't get that choice."

So it is with many of the 5,200 or so students eligible to transfer from the 10 district schools where academic strides were not made by all students for at least two straight years. …

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