Photo courtesy of Ed Reform Now
The Open Enrollment Act became California law two years ago with the goal to give kids a way out of the worst schools in the state. The law compels the state to develop a list of the 1,000 worst public schools based on each one's Academic Performance Index. Parents must fill out applications by December 31 if they wish to leave their current school and enroll in any other higher-performing California public school.
The receiving district must accept the student unless that would lead to overcrowding, or would undermine school diversity. The student's family is responsible for transportation to the new school.
Billboards have sprouted recently across the Southland to promote the law. The non-profit Ed Reform Now raised the money to put them up. The author of the law, former state Senator Gloria Romero, is the group’s director.
“When I originally wrote the law, I had included the lowest three tiers. And it got pushed down to the bottom tier, the 10% as opposed to the 30%,” she said.
The goal of the law, she said, is to give parents a way out of a school that chronically underperforms. Romero contended that education and school district official aren’t doing enough to let parents know about her law.
The California Department of Education published the list of 1,000 lowest performing schools last month.
State education officials said they don’t keep track of how many students have used the law to leave a low performing school because there’s not provision in the law for California to keep records of transfers, conduct audits, or evaluate its effectiveness.
They do admit there’s a significant flaw in the Open Enrollment Act that only the state legislature can fix. The list the state publishes is not a true list of the 1,000 lowest performing schools. State law caps how many schools one district can have on the list, and there’s a set number of elementary, middle, and high schools that can be on the list.
This formula means that about 100 schools on the list have scored near, at, or above 800 on the annual Academic Performance Index. The California Department of Education considers that a mark of high performance.
Romero said she would not recommend parents use the Open Enrollment law to take their kids out of these schools even if the campus has made it onto the state’s lowest performing schools list.