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More than 60 schools in San Diego County were declared to be in a state of emergency today by the California State Board of Education because of their test scores, a step that allows their students to enroll in other schools.

The controversial emergency declaration is supposed to accelerate a new law that allows students in 1,000 of California’s lowest performing schools to transfer to other schools with higher test scores, including schools in other districts. It states that the move is “necessary to avoid serious harm to the public peace, health, safety, or general welfare” of students.

The law was passed partly to make California more eligible for Race to the Top, a coveted federal grant that it hasn’t gotten so far. The law has been controversial with parent groups who say the rushed process is unnecessarily alarming parents and school districts who say schools are being unfairly tagged as failures. The California School Boards Association called it “patently unworkable.”

California Watch does a nice job of breaking down what this means:

The law sets out a timeline allowing parents to apply to transfer their children to schools in other districts by Jan. 1 preceding the school year they wish to transfer. But the state board wants the law implemented immediately, to allow students who wish to enroll in other districts by November 1, rather than the fall of 2011, as the law seemed to envisage.

Parents already can transfer students out of schools that are failing under No Child Left Behind, though those schools aren’t necessarily the same as those on the new California list. And they have even more options to get students out of their neighborhood schools, from integration busing to magnets to a program that simply allows children to enroll at another school, if room exists and their parents can get them there.

The question is whether giving parents a choice will nudge schools to improve — and whether families will use the new option. David Page, a parent leader from San Diego who attended the state board meeting, said parents rarely take advantage of the choices they already have.

“Most parents think their school is fine and everyone else is jacked up,” Page said.

You can check out the full list of schools here. I’m still learning more about how this would impact local schools and will post anything new that I learn here.

Correction: The original version of this post misstated the number of schools on the state list. It’s since been updated.


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