How much slack should Wake get for not meeting federal No Child Left Behind guidelines for letting parents know ahead of time that they can transfer out of failing schools?
As noted in today's article, Wake says it can't tell parents at Title I year-round schools before the school year starts that they can get out under NCLB. They're arguing the mandated 14-day advance notice doesn't work for year-round schools that start July 7 because the test results aren't back yet.
Officially at least, that doesn't cut it for the feds.
"In the case of year-round schools, public school choice must be offered sufficiently in advance of, but no later than 14 calendar days before, the beginning of the “school year” as that term is defined by the (state education authority) or (local education authority)," according to guidelines from the U.S. Education Department.
But as a practical matter, Wake doesn't have anything to worry about.
U.S. Education Department officials say they haven't sent a warning letter to Wake.
State Education CEO Bill Harrison spokes with Supt. Del Burns after a parent complained, but that's about the extent of that.
"We are confident that Wake County is making every effort to meet the requirements of the law given the constraints of data collection timelines and capacity and their own efforts to serve a growing student population,” said Vanessa Jeter, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Instruction, in today's article.
Wake's argument about lack of time for NCLB notification doesn't work as well when it comes to the case of Barwell Road Elementary School. Under NCLB, Barwell was going to be sanctioned again and have to provide transfers for the 2009-10 school year no matter how well it did in the 2008-09 school year.
Schools that are sanctioned by NCLB have to pass for two years in a row before they can stop issuing transfers.
Federal guidelines say parents at schools like Barwell should be notified about their transfer options in the spring or early summer at least two weeks before school starts.
Despite knowing well ahead of time that Barwell parents would need to be given choice options, they couldn't begin to apply until June 29. The window to apply out of the year-round school expires today with placement possibly this month.
Barwell parent Chris Marsch said it's unfair not to let students transfer out before the school year begins. He said it puts parents in the awkward situation of making their kids move out after they've been in a class for a few weeks.
Willi Webb, Wake's Title I director, said they didn't let Barwell parents make their requests until June 29 because of delays getting a new online application system ready. She said they decided to take NCLB requests online because as many as 29 schools could be sanctioned this year, up from 14 the prior school year.
Marsch's case is pretty interesting. His two kids had been at Swift Creek Elementary last school year because he refused to give consent for Barwell. But once the state Supreme Court ruled for the school district in the year-round lawsuit, the non-consent families were sent back to their base schools.
Knowing that Swift Creek had been one of Barwell's NCLB options last year, Marsch had tried to take advantage of it for this school year. But school officials told him that they hadn't designated schools yet for 2009-10.
Marsch was forced to instead submit a regular transfer request for Swift Creek, which was rejected by both staff and the school board.
Marsch has since applied for Swift Creek now that the application process is open. But school officials could ignore his request and instead offer to send his kids to the other choice for Barwell, East Garner Elementary,