PLEASANT HILL -- Student transfers from poorly performing schools and the ban on fees for educational activities were hot topics Monday at a joint meeting of the City Council and the Mt. Diablo school board.
Under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, which requires all students to be proficient in math and English language arts by 2014, schools that don't make "adequate yearly progress" for two consecutive years toward federal achievement targets are placed in program improvement.
Under the law, districts must allow students at program improvement schools to transfer to another school.
Leanne Hamaji, a member of the Pleasant Hill Education Commission, raised concerns about the number of transfer students at Pleasant Hill Middle School relative to other middle schools in the district.
This school year, 285 students -- or 31 percent of the student body -- at Pleasant Hill Middle School live outside the attendance area, Hamaji said, citing district data. Of those students, 105 transferred from program improvement schools.
Hamaji said the schools lack the resources to help students who transfer from program improvement schools. She also lamented the fact that federal Title I funds, which the education departments gives to schools serving disadvantaged students, don't travel with transfer students to the new school.
Pointing out that Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek has no NCLB transfer students, Hamaji asked board members to explain how the district assigns those students.
Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for student achievement and school support, explained the district considers enrollment history, capacity, location, size and whether a bus already serves the school.
Lock said schools that take transfer students get additional state funding and she pointed out that students from poorly performing schools represent a range of academic abilities.
Steven Lawrence said the board could consider Hamaji's suggestion that the district meet with parents to discuss attendance, homework and behavior expectations at the transfer school.
Parents also expressed concern that the state law banning pupil fees might jeopardize field trips, the annual fifth-grade outdoor education trip, sports and music programs. AB 1575 prohibits school districts from charging students mandatory fees to participate in educational activities, although voluntary donations are allowed.
Deb Cooksey, assistant general counsel for the district, said she has sought to dispel misconceptions about the law when she speaks to school site councils. Parents can continue to donate for activities, but schools can't exclude students who don't contribute, Cooksey said.
This means that if schools or parents don't raise enough money to cover the cost for every student to go on a field trip, for example, the trip must be canceled. Cooksey said parents should receive receipts for their donations so they can get their money back if the event doesn't happen.
Board member Linda Mayo said it's critical that parents who can't give money aren't stigmatized.
"Part of this is our concern that students may miss some things because students can't make a donation," Mayo said.
Councilman David Durant said the current system of collecting donations at individual schools could end up stigmatizing an entire campus that can't raise the money for a trip.
It might be better, he said, to establish a districtwide donation pool that could be disbursed to the schools.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.