September 23, 2008

Few in Roanoke Exercise School Choice

By David Harrison [email protected] 777-3523

A total of 58 Roanoke students, a fraction of those eligible, have switched schools this year under a provision in the No Child Left Behind Act.

Under the 2002 law, students who attend schools that have failed to meet federal standards in the same subject area for two consecutive years can move to a better-performing school. But very few students take advantage of that option, nationally and in Roanoke.

This year, students at Round Hill Primary, Huff Lane MicroVillage, Hurt Park Elementary and Lucy Addison Middle schools are eligible to transfer, a combined total of about 1,482 students. School officials sent letters and automated telephone messages to parents of students at those schools earlier this month to let them know about the option. The law requires the school system to provide transportation to the new school.

Students at those schools also are eligible for free tutoring services under the law. The school system will hold a fair to select possible tutoring companies on Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Hurt Park Elementary School cafeteria.

The 58 who transferred represent almost 4 percent of the eligible students, and the deadline to transfer was last week.

When students who took advantage of school choice in earlier years are added, the total number of transfers this year reaches 110 students. That is slightly more than last year when 79 students chose to move.

Roanoke's transfer numbers are similar to national statistics. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 2.2 percent of students eligible for school choice switched schools in the 2006-07 school year, the last year for which figures are available.

Although it's difficult to say why parents choose not to move their children, many indicated that they were happy with their current school, said Deputy Superintendent Vella Wright.

"What matters to them is the relationship they have at the school," she said, adding that parents may be familiar with teachers and their children may have friends at their original school. "At each one of the [informational] meetings I conducted ... there were parents in the group who left the meeting saying, 'Thank you for explaining, but I'm happy here.' "

Tina English, the mother of a second-grade student at Hurt Park Elementary School, said she had considered transferring her son but decided to stay put.

"It's been going pretty smooth," she said.

English's son attended Forest Park Elementary School last year but moved to Hurt Park when Forest Park was closed. She said she planned to sign him up for after-school tutoring.

(c) 2008 Roanoke Times & World News. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.