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New Rules for Schools Criticized

November 28, 2002|Doug Smith | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles school officials criticized as unworkable new federal regulations that will require school districts to offer transfers to students in low performing schools -- whether or not there is space for them at better schools.

The rules also will demand that all new teachers assigned to those underachieving schools be fully credentialed, another daunting goal for local schools.

"These regulations are a mistake in both those regards for L.A.," said Roy Romer, Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent. "Obviously I can't tell you how we'll handle it at this point."

Romer said he will vigorously lobby Secretary of Education Rod Paige to set rational goals for implementation. Paige in the past has praised academic improvements by the nation's second-largest school district.

"For the secretary to compliment us and to put us in a position that would drive us backward doesn't make sense," Romer said. "So I assume there is room for negotiations."

U.S. Department of Education officials previously had indicated that regulations implementing the No Child Left Behind Act signed by President Bush in January might allow highly crowded school districts such as L.A. Unified to deny transfers because of lack of space. But the regulations, which were released Tuesday, said there would be no cause for denial of a transfer.

In Los Angeles, the rule could apply to about 150,000 students in 115 schools identified by the district as low performing based on test scores.

Theodore Alexander Jr., who heads the district's integration programs, said a letter informing parents of the transfer option will go out next week as part of the annual brochure advertising magnet schools.

Based on past experience, Alexander said, he does not anticipate a large response because most parents want their children to stay close to home.

But if there are too many responses, the district cannot comply, he said. "We cannot give them what is not there," he said.

Some school districts in Los Angeles County have already sent letters to parents in their poor performing schools.

Dick Van Der Laan, spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District, said only 31 parents, out of 6,700 who received notices, requested transfers.

About half of them withdrew the requests after being informed that the school they selected was full, he said, and the district found space for the other half.

Pasadena schools sent letters to the parents of about 3,000 students in six eligible schools, district spokesman Erik Nasarenko said.

It received 39 requests for a transfer. Only three were granted. The remainder were rejected because of lack of space, Nasarenko said.

The credentialing rule not only requires districts to immediately begin hiring only fully-qualified teachers in low performing schools, but also sets a deadline for 2005-06 for all teachers to be credentialed.

This presents a high hurdle for L.A. Unified, where about 8,000 teachers lack credentials.

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