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The Illinois State Board of Education published the following overview of how choice programs work under the No Child Left Behind law. ISBE has also published answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Overview of Public School Choice for Illinois Schools

NCLB Provides Public School Choice Option for Students in Low-Performing Schools

Giving students in certain low-performing schools the opportunity to attend a higher-performing public school in the same district is one of the major components of the new federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

The complete text of this law and Illinois’ federally approved application for implementing the law can be found at http://www.isbe.net/news/nclb/default.htm. In addition, the text of a new state law (SB 1983, PA92-0604) which also addresses NCLB implementation is located at http://www.legis.state.il.us/publicacts/pubact92/acts/92-0604.html.

Identifying Schools Which Must Offer the Public School Choice Option

Based on state assessment results, elementary and middle/junior high schools that were already

a) on School Improvement status, and

b) failed to make “adequate yearly progress” in 2001 and 2002 toward all students meeting or exceeding the Illinois Learning Standards must offer their students the choice to attend a higher-performing school in the same district beginning in the fall of 2002.

The Public School Choice Process

No later than August 1, the State Board of Education will tell school districts which, if any, schools must offer choice beginning this fall. Prior to the beginning of the school year, districts must notify the parents of students in those schools that they have the option of sending their students to a higher-performing public school, including public charter schools, in the same district. Parents then have 30 days from the date of notice to decide whether to exercise the choice option.

Students who transfer to a higher-performing school shall be enrolled in classes and other activities in the same manner as all other children at that public school.

Districts must provide transportation to the higher-performing schools as appropriate. In placing students in higher-performing schools, districts must give priority to the lowest achieving children from low-income families if there are space or financial limitations. If there are no higher-performing schools in the same district the district must, to the extent practicable, enter into intergovernmental agreements with neighboring districts to send its students to their higher-performing schools.

ISBE Recommends Local Boards adopt a Public School Choice Policy

The State Board of Education recommends that each local school board establish and implement a policy on public school choice for the possible transfer of students from attendance centers identified for school improvement. It is recommended that districts immediately affected approve a policy at this time, and the remaining districts each complete one in 2002-03.

The recommended local policy should provide at least for the following, and would be in addition to any current “choice” provisions:

(i) Procedures to ensure parents are provided with school choice information (in an understandable and uniform format and, to the extent practical, in a language the parents can understand), prior to the first attendance day of the school year.

(ii) Procedures to ensure the lowest-achieving children from low-income families are given first priority if there is space or financial limitations.

(iii) Procedures to provide or pay for transportation to receiving public schools.

(iv) Procedures to ensure that local school districts (LEAs) shall, to the extent practicable, enter into intergovernmental agreements.

(v) Procedures to ensure transfer students are enrolled in classes and other activities in the same manner as all other children in the receiving public school.

(vi) Procedures regarding attendance capacity (consistent with state law and data provided to ISBE on school construction).

(vii) Procedures to ensure parents exercise the choice option within thirty days of notice upon their receipt of notice

(viii) Procedures to ensure students transferred through choice continue to be eligible for transportation if their home school continues to fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) or if the receiving school fails to achieve AYP.