Capitol Alert

California’s list of poor schools posted again

Children hold up "Parent Revolution" signs during a press conference at Mgrdichian Park, next to Desert Trails Preparatory Academy in Adelanto, California on July 30, 2013. They are celebrating the opening of The Desert Trails Preparatory Academy, chartered by Desert Trails' parents to transform the chronically failing elementary school.
Children hold up "Parent Revolution" signs during a press conference at Mgrdichian Park, next to Desert Trails Preparatory Academy in Adelanto, California on July 30, 2013. They are celebrating the opening of The Desert Trails Preparatory Academy, chartered by Desert Trails' parents to transform the chronically failing elementary school. Los Angeles Times

Facing a lawsuit threat, the state Department of Education has changed its position on posting a list of low-performing schools whose students could be transferred to schools with higher academic test scores.

A state “open enrollment law,” enacted in 2010, requires the department to list 1,000 “low-achieving schools” by Jan. 1 of each year and allows parents of children in those schools to move them to other schools.

Late last year, the department, which is directed by state schools Sept. Tom Torlakson, posted a notice on its website that it would not release a list of the schools because the “academic performance index” on which the list was based had been suspended.

That action, which was not announced publicly, drew fire from state Sen. Bob Huff and school improvement groups, which threatened to sue.

Last week, just days before Jan. 1 deadline, Torlakson’s department altered its notice and posted the previous 1,000-school list, based on 2013 tests, that parents could use to exercise their open enrollment option. Here is a link to a spreadsheet of the list.

However, the department also warned that those seeking to use the list “should know that many changes have occurred since the creation of the list” and “caution should be used when reviewing the list or making any decisions based on the list…”

Bill Lucia of EdVoice, who had been one of the critics and suggested that legal action might ensue, said Monday that with the revised posting, “For now, we will be telling students and districts to use the last list as the legally operational list from which eligibility derives for utilizing the authority of an interdistrict transfer under the open enrollment act.”

Another section of the 2010 law also allows parents of children in low-achieving schools to petition to take control via charter.

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