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Few D.C. Students Seek New Schools

Transfer Period Ends With a Trickle

By Nicole Fuller
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 22, 2004; Page C01

The period for District parents to submit applications to transfer their children to better-performing public schools ended yesterday pretty much as it began: no great stream of people rushing to change schools.

Nine transfer applications were filed yesterday, bringing the number of applications to 106 since the transfer period began Aug. 9, officials said.

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"We have not had the crowd we expected," said Carol P. Jackson, executive assistant for student and school support services with the D.C. public schools, who supervised yesterday's sign-ups.

About half of the District's public school population, or 33,000 students, were entitled to transfer to better-performing schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 because their schools failed to meet test-score benchmarks for two years in a row.

But the transfer option was available only to parents of elementary school students because such a small number of the city's middle, junior high and high schools have been deemed better performing.

This didn't sit well yesterday with Monica L. Best, a Northwest Washington parent who said she didn't realize there were restrictions on the transfers.

She showed up eager to transfer her son, Drew, who is headed to seventh grade next month at MacFarland Junior High School, because she worries that MacFarland has "poor reading test scores and low attendance."

Instead, she was turned away.

"It's leaving the children behind," Best, 34, said. "So you as a parent have to take it into your own hands and work with them at home."

Sixty-eight D.C. public schools, including 31 elementary schools, have been deemed "in need of improvement," as determined by the results of reading and math tests administered in April to students in third through 11th grades.

Jackson said that when the legislation was introduced, each school district was responsible for setting its own standards.

"D.C. set their standards high, which is why many of our schools are not necessarily there," she said.

But the arrival of Clifford P. Janey, former head of schools in Rochester, N.Y., as school superintendent could signal positive changes in the school system, Jackson said.

"We're hoping this year's going to be a banner year," she said.

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