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In Chicago, Only 44% Only 44% of Kids Who Won 'Lottery' Switch Schools

Fewer than half of the Chicago public school students who won a lottery for a scarce 1,100 seats in better-performing schools under a new federal law actually showed up this week at their new schools, officials said Friday.

After all the angst over the few seats available for 270,000 students who were eligible under the No Child Left Behind law, only 481 of 1,097 students--or 44 percent--who won those seats actually tried to claim them as of Thursday, officials said.

The winners apparently realized "the grass is not always greener'' at another school, schools CEO Arne Duncan said Friday during a taping of WBBM-AM's "At Issue,'' which airs at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Barbara Radner, a DePaul University professor who sits on a state advisory panel on the law's "choice'' provisions, called the strange arithmetic "the final indictment of an absolutely stupid plan by [President] Bush.''

"This is the real evidence. People vote with their feet--well, they voted not to walk. . . . We've gone through agony for a fool's mission,'' she said.

Radner said the system was forced to send out 270,000 letters telling parents their schools were low-performing and then to field replies from 19,246 interested in entering a lottery only days before school began. She called the exercise an "absurd use of people's energy'' in the critical days just before school began.

Chicago Board of Education officials said the system will probably keep unclaimed slots open for a few weeks, but will not offer them to lottery losers. To do otherwise, Duncan said, would be a "logistical disaster.''

Also Friday, officials said 133,000 students in schools with the worst long-term state test score records had been sent letters notifying them that they can apply for tutoring from the Chicago Public Schools or 10 private vendors this school year, under another No Child Left Behind requirement.

Parents can speak with vendors during a special fair from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and Sept. 13 at the National Teachers Academy, 55 W. Cermak. However, only 20,000 to 25,000 students will be selected for tutoring under the $37 million plan. In addition, some tutoring may be off-site, without free transportation; some will be online, and some may be at local schools, if parents show enough demand.

— Rosalind Rossi
Only 44% of kids who won 'lottery' switch schools
Chicago Sun-Times


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