A better school for your child?

Alexander Cooper

LAS VEGAS — Is your son or daughter attending one of the 71 failing Title I schools in the Clark County School District?

If so — and if you want him or her to go to a better school next year — you should consider taking advantage of a provision in the federal No Child Left Behind law: It says that if you want, your children must be allowed to transfer to another, better public school.

As you might expect, however, there are some catches. Even though the school district is required by federal law to give you notice of your options, the notices being sent out:

1)      are written in a convoluted and hard-to-understand form,

2)      do not really explain how to take advantage of the school-choice option,

3)      are easy to miss until it’s too late, and

4)      don’t tell parents that if their child goes back to his or her old school and sits down, they can no longer choose a different school.

The Clark County School District mailed its notices for the 2011-12 school year on Aug. 13, 2011.  Those letters thus should be in students’ homes now.

The letter, written according to federal requirements, is admittedly “overwhelming,” says Kim Wooden, interim deputy superintendent of student support services. It also does not explain how to take advantage of the school-choice option.  That information is also missing from CCSD’s Back to School Reporter — and the district website. 

However, in an interview last week, senior CCSD officials shared with NPRI important facts about how they are implementing the NCLB school-choice option and just what parents must do to take advantage of school choice.

“Failing Title I school,” in the context of federal law, has a technical meaning: a Title I school that “has not made adequate yearly progress (AYP)” for two or more consecutive years.

Parents whose children are in such a school must be offered the option of transferring to another public school that has not been identified as in need of improvement, corrective action or restructuring.  The schools to which the children can transfer include public charter schools. Transportation must be provided by the school district.

According to Patsi Saas, director of the district’s Title I ESEA programs, parents can transfer schools up until the time their student takes a seat at a school for that school year.

For instance, suppose a child is zoned for a particular Title I school that is eligible for school choice, and on Monday, Aug. 29 (the first day of the school year) the child’s parents have not yet taken advantage of their school-choice option.  According to Saas and Wooden, the family can still opt for school choice if the child misses the first day of school.  It is only once that child takes a seat at the old or a new school that the family’s school-choice options end.

So, although the CCSD letter doesn’t mention it, a definite deadline exists for parents to exercise their school choice.

Also not explained in the letter is the process to transfer schools — which is relatively simple. 

Attached to the notice, parents will find a page with two duplicate forms. They then simply fill out the form and take it to the school chosen (one of the two schools offered in the letter). Alternatively, they can take it to the zoned school the child is leaving.  School staff will do the rest — disenrollment from the zoned school, enrollment in the new school, transfer student records and notify transportation. 

“We make it as simple as we can for parents,” says Saas.

In some instances, however, parents may have to contact transportation themselves.  If that’s the case, said Saas, school staff can help parents do that through computers in the school office.

An important note for parents regarding transportation: The bus stop for pick-up and drop-off to and from the new school is at the school of origin — that is, the zoned school the student is leaving. Parents are responsible to get the student to the bus stop, including students living outside the two-mile walk zone.

Under the federal law, students opting for school choice can remain at their new school through that school’s highest grade level.  Thus the CCSD parental notice says that “all transferring students should be treated as students who have moved into the receiving school’s attendance zone and allowed to enroll in class and other activities on the same basis as all other students at the public school.”

One odd wrinkle, however, is that if your child’s school of origin later improves, and is no longer classified as “in need of improvement, corrective action or restructure,” the NCLB transportation rules no longer apply.  Parents then are obligated to supply the transportation for their child.

The transportation issue  will likely confuse some high school transferees for the coming school year. While the district normally has no Title I high schools, for the past two school years, six high schools were designated as Title I schools under the American Recovery and Reconstruction (or “stimulus”) Act (ARRA).  That temporary program expired this year, and CCSD once again has no high schools qualifying for Title I.

High school students who took advantage of school choice under ARRA can remain at their option school through graduation.  However, parents will be responsible for transportation.

Some other important facts shared in the CCSD interview, but not elsewhere:

v            Students must remain at a school once the student has seat time.  However, CCSD will allow parents to petition the area superintendent to return to a zoned school of origin.

v            Students can re-enroll in their zoned school of origin at the start of any school year.

v            New students must be offered the school-choice options.

As of Aug. 23, CCSD did not have a current list of qualifying schools or option schools on its website.  However, CCSD expects the information to be posted soon.  According to Saas, when a list is posted, parents should be able to find it here. 

In the meantime, NPRI has compiled a list of the CCSD elementary and middle schools, which should be eligible for school choice, based on current Title I and AYP status*:


Beckley (N3)

Cahlan (N1)

Cambeiro (N2)

Cortez (N3)

Cox, Clyde (N2)

Craig (N7)

Crestwood (N1)

Culley (N1)

Dearing (N4)

Detwiler (N3)

Diaz (N1-Hold)

Earl, Ira (N5)

Edwards (N4)

Fitzgerald (N7)

Fong (N5)

Gragson (N2)

Hancock (SIG)

Harmon (N1)

Herron (N8)

Hickey (N2-Hold)

Hollingsworth (N6)

Jeffers (N3)

Kelly (N4-Hold)

Lake (N5)

Lincoln (N1)

Long (N5)

Lowman (N1)

Lunt (N3)

Manch (N1)

Martinez (N4)

McWilliams (N7)

Moore (N5)

Paradise (N5)

Park (N1)

Petersen (N5)

Pittman (N7)

Reed (N7)

Ronnow (N8)

Ronzone (N5)

Roundy (N2)

Rowe (N2)

Rundle (N7)

Snyder (N1)

Squires (N3)

Sunrise Acres (N3)

Tate (N7-Hold)

Taylor, Robert (N7)

Thiriot (N2-Hold)

Thomas (N3)

Vegas Verdes (N4)

Warren (N5-Hold)

West Prep (N1-Hold)

Whitney (N3)

Williams, Tom (N7)

Woolley (N6)

Wynn (N6)




Bailey (N4)

Brinley (N8)

Cashman (N1-Hold)

Fremont (N6)

Garside (N8)

Gibson, Robert (N7)

Mack, Jerome (N4)

Martin (N3)

Monaco (N8)

Orr (N2)

Robison (N8)

Sedway (N7)

Smith, J.D. (N3)

Von Tobel (N9)

West Prep (N8)

*Number of years that the school has been listed as “In Need of Improvement” is placed in parentheses

For more information, parents should contact Alyiah Smith in the Title I office at 799-3850.  For Spanish, ask for Norma Sume.

Karen Gray is an education researcher with the Nevada Policy Research Institute and Alexander Cooper is a policy intern with the Nevada Policy Research Institute.  For more, visit http://nevadajournal.com or http://npri.org/.