CDE reverses, calls Open Enrollment list good to go

Officials from the California Department of Education said late last week that they have decided to keep the current Open Enrollment list of the state's 1,000 lowest performing schools.

The announcement is a reversal of a prior position from the CDE that the Open Enrollment list for 2011-12 transfers would be changed following the approval of permanent regulations by the California State Board of Education. That would have meant some schools would have been removed and others added to the transfer list.

Those regulations are still on route to the state board and are expected to be considered at the November meeting, but the list of lowest achieving schools will no longer undergo changes once the regulations have been approved.

Students and parents have until January 1 to apply to transfer from their district of residence to an alternative school for the 2011-12 school year. The law provides no further guidance on when schools must send out notifications to students and parents of their eligibility to transfer.

We're caught in a little bit of a no-man's time between the emergency regulations and the permanent regulations taking effect," explained Hilary Mclean, spokeswoman for CDE. "We're trying obviously to give parents and schools the most information that we can, but we also can't get ahead of the formal rulemaking process."

The news arrives as many school districts are attempting to get their schools removed from the lowest-performers list. Due to a formula that many educators have called ill-conceived, some schools identified on the open enrollment list were actually models of academic achievement.

The current list for 2011-12 transfers contains 31 schools that scored 800 or more on the 2010 Academic Performance Index. And dozens of other identified schools had scores that are also considered high performing.

The CDE has already begun receiving waivers from districts that want their high performing schools off the Open Enrollment list. The waivers will likely be heard at a state board meeting on January 12 and 13.

Nevertheless, officials said districts should quickly notify parents of their rights.

"No district wants to send this kind of mixed message or a confusing message to their parents," said Gordon Jackson, director at the Learning Support and Partnerships Division at CDE. "But in light of that, I still think they should just honor their obligation and make the notification."

When the final regulations are approved, districts will be provided deadlines for future years on when they need to notify parents. Under the regulations going to the board, districts would have two weeks following the CDE's posting of the annual list of 1,000 lowest performing schools to notify parents.

The department posted the current Open Enrollment list on October 8.

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