No Child Left Behind waiver ends busing for transfer students

Sunday, September 2, 2012 | 3:34 p.m. CDT; updated 12:24 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 19, 2012

COLUMBIA — Columbia elementary students, with a few exceptions, will no longer be allowed to transfer to different schools as they once were under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Earlier this summer, Missouri was granted a waiver from the law. This changes the requirement that Columbia Public Schools provide busing for students who transferred under the law.

Previously, students could transfer if the school they attended did not meet national test-score benchmarks. They were allowed to transfer to a school that did meet the mandated progress levels if that school had room.

Now, since Missouri, along with more than half the country, has had the law’s mandates waived, students will have to stay at their assigned schools.

According to data from the office of Peter Stiepleman, assistant superintendent of elementary education, 137 No Child transfers were approved in 2009-10, 52 in 2010-11 and 57 in 2011-12.

In general, the district is allowing fewer transfers of any kind. A few exceptions exist:

  • Students will have their transfer requests approved on the basis of sibling accommodation. This means the district tries to keep family members together, Stiepleman said.
  • Students with parents who work for the schools can transfer to the school at which the parent is a staff member.
  • Students who transferred schools before the waiver can stay at that building, but the district will no longer provide transportation to those schools. Parents will have to find rides for their children. Stiepleman said that because of a budgetary shortfall, the district had to choose between providing buses for those children or maintaining federal Title I programs and personnel.

"The choice was quite clear," he said.

Stiepleman said he thinks the No Child act served an important function but also set up schools for failure.

On one hand, the law made schools accountable for every student, especially minority and low-income students. However, it defined student growth in terms of an "arbitrary" test score, Stiepleman said, and not in terms of how a student actually grows.

"We need something different," he said.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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Mike Bellman September 2, 2012 | 4:11 p.m.

Our child is transferred to Midway from West Boulevard. We are only a mile from the boundary, so last year, it wasn't a stretch for the Midway bus to come anyway. Both buses passed by the house. Since the NCLB waiver, First Student has rerouted the MWE bus so it no longer comes down our road for the first stops.

When we applied for the PAY RIDER program (~$150/semester), I was told by Heidi at First Student we were declined from participating. We even offered to take our child to the bus stop where the bus was going anyway. That didn't matter. Your student can not take a step on our bus. Last Monday, I sent an email to Mr. Wilson at CPS, the transportation supervisor, but he has yet to reply or give an explanation for the declined pay rider. I got my application with his signature on the "approved" line returned to me by Heidi at First Student.

My wife and I both work 8-5. The choice was to pay $250 a month for MU's Adventure club (a great, but pricey program) or transfer our 9 year old back to a school with less to offer. In my view, after 3 years of attendance and observation, WBE is a school with too many struggling kids. The main focus at WBE is struggling kids BOTH in behavior and academics. Kids with average talents are not given any attention until they fall behind.

We gave West Boulevard Elementary 3 good years by declining NCLB for 2008 and 2009, but that is a school for disciplinarians. I was very happy to finally see the difference at MWE. It's a great school with great kids and a motivated staff.

So the bus issue is an issue for us, because of the transfer.
It pains me to speak poorly about any school, but faced with transferring back, our 9 year old was completely dejected and cried. Should any school make a kid cry because the student body is filled with undisciplined kids? (look at the internal PBS discipline data if you doubt it)

NCLB was the only thing that got our kids away from WBE and the busing compromise threatened another one of our kids' academic future.

I can understand how my words might be inflammatory to some, but for our kids, WBE was a poor fit because its main focus is on MAP and the achievement gap. I'll struggle with the Adventure Club fees as long as as I can because my kids are worth it.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 2, 2012 | 6:11 p.m.

My 3 girls went to WBE for 3 years, then we moved and the girls went to MWE. The latter was FAR better. The parental involvement was substantial, the principals excellent, as were the teachers.

It's important to remember that NCLB was a collaborative effort between Kennedy (D) and Bush (R), although the latter gets all the public blame. IMO, NCLB was a good start at accountability, but it should have never been intended as an end-all-be-all (if it ever was). Before many of you lean on me, I'd like to remind you that we have been through a couple of Congress and President changes since NCLB was implemented, yet NCLB has NOT been significantly modified by anyone.

The failure to change it is bipartisan.

(Report Comment)
Sky Chadde September 3, 2012 | 10:37 a.m.

I'm the reporter on this story and I just wanted to say I appreciate the feedback this story has received. I'll be talking to my editor about potential follow-ups.

(Report Comment)

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