Parents of Pomona middle schoolers, you can pull them out ASAP, under a new state regulation adopted by the State Board of Education yesterday in compliance with the state "Race To The Top" federal grant. In fact, every single traditional middle school in the City of Pomona was on the "open enrollment" list. From Palomares to the north, Emerson to the east, Marshall to the west, and Simons and Fremont to the south, every single one was an "open enrollment" school. Previously, the list was titled "low achievement" schools, but that was changed due to a quirk with the state law, which classified some well-performing schools as poor even though they were above the state average.
However, no one would identify the middle schools in the City of Pomona as well performing. All of them are in the lower two deciles, although some are above average when demographics of the student and parent population are considered. Nevertheless, it is interesting that Pomona schools actually do well at the elementary school level - with even the ones in the "bad" areas doing well above average when demographic considerations are included - the high schools, despite the bad reputation, are also performing above average when demographics are considered, with respectable high school exit exam pass rates - while the middle schools are doing a poor enough job to get put on the state list.
The emergency regulation calls for school districts to notify all parents with students in the schools on the "open enrollment list" by the first day of school that they can transfer their kids out. Unfortunately, the only performing middle school in the Pomona Unified School District is Lorbeer Middle School, in Diamond Bar. There are also the K-8 schools that former Superintendent Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana created, but most of them are geared for students to continue forward from the elementary school level. However, the Open Enrollment Act also allows parents to transfer to schools outside of the district, and many of them, such as Bonita, Walnut Valley, and Claremont, have been interested in interdistrict transfers due to declining child populations in those cities. The regulation states that once a student is enrolled outside of their home school, that they will not have to reapply.
Although districts are permitted to set their own due dates for applications, the districts that parents are transferring their kids to will need to respond back to the home district by September 30, 2010, with all transfers concluding by November 1, 2010. Subsequently, notification will be made at the start of the calendar year, with transfers effective the fall of that year. Districts are not require to permit transfers out of the district if it would upset the "racial and ethnic balance" of the district. In the past, as I personally experienced, Pomona Unified has used that to prohibit non-Hispanics from transferring out of Pomona city schools. However, some legal reviewers have cautioned against using that as a rationale, for it violates Proposition 209. Each district will have to come up with a procedure within the next month as to how they wish to arrange for transfers, and the ability for districts to reject students transferring in is limited.
To have all Pomona middle schools on a list that many will interpret as "failing" could be devastating to the district as it attempts to have voters pass a $96 parcel tax increase on all property. I am sure that the ballot argument opposing the tax will be made that highlights this uncomfortable fact. Or advocates of the tax increase could argue that the fact that since all Pomona middle schools were put on the state emergency list, it is evidence that we should put money into Pomona schools to improve. With the utility tax and school parcel tax increase, possible Sheriff's contracting, and other hot topics, there are real choices for our community.