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updated: 8/7/2013 12:54 PM

School choice available at 4 Naperville-area elementaries

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Two schools in each of the main public districts that serve Naperville are required to offer school choice this year under the No Child Left Behind Act -- but not all for the same reason.

Parents with children at Mill Street and Beebe elementary schools in Naperville Unit District 203 or at Georgetown and Longwood elementary schools in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 are being given the option to move their students to other buildings before the coming school year.

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The availability of choice usually signals a school is struggling to meet federal benchmarks, because the option must be offered when a school fails to make adequate yearly progress, or AYP, on student standardized test scores more than two years in a row.

But District 203 officials say that's not the case with Mill Street.

The school was required to offer choice last year, but it made AYP this year under a "safe harbor" provision that recognizes significant strides toward getting enough students to meet or exceed federal standards. This year, 92.5 percent of students schoolwide and within all demographic subgroups were required to meet or exceed standards for a school to make AYP without safe harbor.

Once a school offers choice for the first time, the option must be available until it makes AYP two years in a row, said Susan Rice, District 203 spokeswoman.

"A school needs to be out of AYP status for two years before the choice option is lifted," Rice said. "Even though Mill Street made AYP, it will continue to offer a choice for one more year."

Making AYP grew tougher across the state this year for several reasons -- even for high-performing districts like 203 and 204, officials said. While the percentage of students who need to meet or exceed standards remained at 92.5 percent, the state raised the test score needed to qualify as meeting or exceeding. The test students took this spring also was more difficult, with 20 percent of questions aligned to the new Common Core curriculum that will be adopted across the state in 2014-15.

Two Mill Street families used the choice option last year to send their student or students to a different school, Rice said. The district expects a low number of parents to use choice this year, but those who do can send their students to either Highlands or Meadow Glens elementary schools.

"Our parents are deeply committed to the school their child attends and really are committed to the neighborhood school concept," said Kitty Ryan, assistant superintendent for elementary education. "I do expect that most parents will elect to stay in their home school, their community school, their neighborhood school."

District 203 sent letters to Mill Street and Beebe parents Tuesday explaining their options and encouraging them to contact their principal with questions. Parents who want to move their child under school choice must notify the district by Aug. 12.

Officials in Indian Prairie Unit District 204, which covers portions of Naperville, Aurora, Plainfield and Bolingbrook, are evaluating requests due Aug. 1 from parents who want to move their students from Georgetown or Longwood elementary schools to Clow or Kendall.

This is the second year Georgetown and Longwood have been required to offer choice, and last year, 60 families decided to move their students. Kathy Pease, assistant superintendent for elementary teaching and learning, said the number of parents requesting a change this year has not yet been tallied.

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