Open Enrollment Act
Senate Bill 4 of the Fifth Extraordinary Session
What laws govern the Open Enrollment Act?
The Open Enrollment Act is governed by California Education Code (EC) sections 48350–48361 and the California Code of Regulations, Title 5, sections 4700–4703.
What is the purpose of the Open Enrollment Act?
The purpose of the Open Enrollment Act is to improve student achievement and enhance parental choice in education by providing additional options to pupils to enroll in public schools throughout the state without regard to the residence of their parents. The Open Enrollment Act provides students enrolled in one of the 1,000 Open Enrollment schools the option to enroll in a school within the same district or any other district provided the school to which they are applying has a higher Academic Performance Index (API) score than the pupil's school of residence.
How are schools selected, designated, and placed on the list of Open Enrollment schools?
EC Section 48352 (a)(2) states that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction "annually shall create a list of 1,000 schools ranked by increasing API with the same ratio of elementary, middle, and high schools as existed in decile 1 in the 2008–09 school year. (2) In constructing the list of 1,000 schools each year, the Superintendent shall ensure each of the following: (A) A local educational agency shall not have more than 10 percent of its schools on the list. However, if the number of schools in a local educational agency is not evenly divisible by 10, the Superintendent shall round up to the next whole number of schools. (B) Court, community, or community day schools shall not be included on the list. (C) Charter schools shall not be included on the list."
California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 4701(a)(2)(E) provides for the exclusion of schools from the Open Enrollment list that are not schools of a district of residence as defined in EC Section 48352(d). However, this provision is not applicable for such schools on the currently posted Open Enrollment lists.
In addition, schools with less than 100 valid scores reported on the 2009 Base API data file were excluded. Because of the ratio specified above, 68.7 percent (or 687 of the 1,000 on list) are elementary schools, 16.5 percent (or 165 of the 1,000 on the list) are middle schools, and 14.8 percent (or 148 of the 1,000 on the list) are high schools.
Creating the list starts with the identification of the 687 elementary schools, 165 middle schools, and 148 high schools that have the lowest API scores within the criteria described above. This list is ranked from lowest API score to highest API score. When an LEA on the list has reached its '10 percent' cap, subject to the roundup provision, (see also question 4) the LEA's schools with the highest API scores are dropped from the list until the LEA has no more than its '10 percent' number of schools on the list. Schools with the next lowest API scores remaining in the pool are then added to create the next list of 1,000 schools that maintains the required ratio of schools. This process continues until a final list of 1,000 schools is achieved that both maintains the ratio of 68.7 percent elementary schools, 16.5 percent middle schools, and 14.8 percent high schools and does not exceed any LEA's '10 percent' number of schools.
- How is the Open Enrollment Act list of schools different from the list of schools identified as "persistently lowest achieving," or in Program Improvement (PI) schools?
Schools identified as "persistently lowest achieving," or schools in PI are identified based on criteria provided by the federal government. Information and links related to the distinctions can be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools Web page.
Open Enrollment schools are identified based on provisions in EC Section 48352.
Which schools are excluded from the Open Enrollment list?
EC sections 48352 (a)(2)(B) and (C) identify school types to be excluded from the Open Enrollment list. These school types are juvenile court schools, county community schools, community day schools, and charter schools. In addition, the emergency and proposed permanent Open Enrollment Act regulations also exclude closed schools, schools having fewer than 100 valid test scores, and schools that are not schools of a district of residence as defined in EC Section 48352(d). The exclusion of schools with fewer than 100 valid test scores is necessary to reflect the lack of statistical certainty of an API score that is based on less than 100 valid test scores, per EC Section 52052 (f)(1).
Will a new list be generated each year?
Yes. It is anticipated that a new list for the 2015–16 school year will be available in the fall of 2014 and LEAs will be notified that one or more of their schools is on the new list.
How are Single School Districts factored into the Open Enrollment process and list?
The statute does not make a specific reference to the inclusion of single school districts on the state's list of Open Enrollment schools. EC Section 48352 (a)(2)(A) however states that "…, if the number of schools in a local educational agency is not evenly divisible by 10, the Superintendent shall round up to the next whole number of schools." Consequently, when the LEA's number of schools is not evenly divisible by 10, the 10 percent number of schools shall be rounded up to the next whole number of schools. If an LEA, therefore, has between one and nine schools, this rule means that at least one school can be on the list.
May parents, guardians, and students in the attendance area of a school on the Open Enrollment Act list apply for multiple school transfers to schools with higher API scores?
Yes. The law does not establish a limit on transfer applications.
What about students of military personnel?
The application deadline does not apply to an application requesting a transfer if the parent with whom the pupil resides is enlisted in the military and was relocated by the military within 90 calendar days prior to submitting the application. (EC Section 48354 [b]).
- Which rules regarding transfer options take precedence if a school in PI is also designated as an Open Enrollment school?
A parent or guardian may use either option in transferring a student from the school. LEAs are responsible for providing proper notice to parents and guardians, about transfer requirements under both the Open Enrollment Act and PI. In exercising choice under the PI requirements, a student would attend a higher performing school in his or her district of residence—one not in PI. Transportation services may be provided when using the choice option for PI schools. In exercising choice under Open Enrollment, a parent or guardian may enroll a student in a school within his or her district of residence or another district, as long as that school has a higher API score. Also, transportation is not statutorily a responsibility of either the district of residence or the district of enrollment.
Can students transferring from Open Enrollment schools transfer to magnet schools and gifted and talented programs?
Any student in the attendance area of a school on the Open Enrollment Act list may apply to transfer to any school in any district that has a higher API score than the attendance area school. However, EC Section 48356(b) states that, in considering an application pursuant to this law, "a nonresident school district may apply its usual requirements for admission to a magnet school or a program designed to serve gifted and talented pupils."
What happens if the school of enrollment has different requirements for graduation from high school than the district of residence?
Students will be expected to complete all requirements for graduation from the high school of their district of enrollment.
What happens if the high school of enrollment has additional requirements for graduation beyond the requirements of the high school in the student's district of residence?
If the new high school has additional coursework requirements for graduation authorized by the governing board, the transfer student would normally be expected to meet those additional requirements for graduation. However, Assembly Bill 167 (Chapter 224, Statutes of 2009) exempts any dependent or ward in foster care from all additional coursework and other additional requirements if the pupil, while he or she is in grade eleven or twelve, transfers to the district from another school district, unless the district makes a finding that the pupil is reasonably able to complete the additional requirements in time to graduate from high school while he or she remains eligible for foster care benefits pursuant to law. If a pupil in foster care is granted an exemption which affects the pupil's ability to gain admission to a postsecondary educational institution, the school district is to notify the pupil and the person holding the rights to make educational decisions for the pupil.
- Is the school of enrollment required to accept credits toward graduation that were awarded to the pupil by another school district?
Yes. The school of enrollment shall accept credits toward graduation and shall graduate the pupil if the pupil meets the graduation requirements of the school district of enrollment.
How are the needs of students identified for special education services met under the Open Enrollment Act?
Students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) have the same opportunity to open enrollment as non-special education students.
Under federal and state laws, placement of a student identified for special education services is determined by the student's IEP. The student's district of residence is primarily responsible for developing the IEP with input from the parents and the student. Placement designated in a student's IEP cannot be unilaterally changed by a parent or guardian or district of residence or any other proposed district of enrollment.
How will the needs of English Learner/Limited English Proficient (EL/LEP) students be met?
English learners (whose school of residence is on the Open Enrollment list) that apply to transfer to another school with a higher API score are eligible to receive EL programs and services at the new school. California's schools are obligated to provide EL students with learning opportunities in an appropriate program based on the individual proficiency level of each student. The provision of such services is not contingent on the school or district of enrollment.
Are school districts required to provide transportation of pupils enrolled in other districts pursuant to the Open Enrollment Act?
No. There is no obligation under the Open Enrollment Act for either school district to provide transportation due to the transfer of a pupil under the Open Enrollment Act. Local LEA governing policies determine the local transportation services. However, in certain cases, if a parent or guardian exercises "choice" under PI requirements, transportation services may be provided (see also question 10). Additionally, transportation may be provided by a school district as a part of a pupil's IEP (see also question 15).
- When do the permanent regulations go into effect?
Permanent regulations became effective as of January 1, 2011.
What are the timelines for the 2014–15 school year?
For schools on the 2014–15 Open Enrollment list, districts must notify parents of their option to transfer in time for parents to submit an application by January 1, 2014. The school district of enrollment may waive this deadline.
Within 60 calendar days of receiving an application from a student seeking to transfer pursuant to the Open Enrollment Act, a school district of enrollment shall notify the applicant and the school district of residence in writing whether the application has been accepted or rejected.
Will the CDE provide a template notification letter to LEAs?
No. LEAs can best determine the most appropriate method and language for accomplishing parent notification.
- Can a school district adopt specific, written standards for acceptance and rejection of applications of students seeking to enroll?
Yes. LEAs may adopt standards, and may include consideration of the capacity of a program, class, grade level, school building, or adverse financial impact. (Subject to subdivision (b), and except as necessary in accordance with EC Section 48355), the standards (EC Section 48356) shall not include consideration of a pupil's previous academic achievement, physical condition, proficiency in the English language, family income, or any of the individual characteristics set forth in EC Section 200.
- Can a school district of residence or a school district of enrollment prohibit the transfer of a student pursuant to the Open Enrollment Act?
Yes, under certain conditions. EC Section 48355 (a) states that the school district of residence of a pupil or a school district of enrollment to which a pupil has applied to attend may prohibit the transfer of the pupil pursuant to this article or limit the number of pupils who transfer pursuant to this article if the governing board of the district determines that the transfer would negatively impact either of the following:
- A court-ordered or voluntary desegregation plan of the district.
- The racial and ethnic balance of the district, provided that any policy adopted pursuant to this paragraph is consistent with federal and state law.
Communications to parents or guardians by districts regarding the open enrollments options under the Open Enrollment Act shall be factually accurate and not target individual parents, guardians, or residential neighborhoods on the basis of a child's actual or perceived academic or athletic performance or any other personal characteristic.
A resident pupil who is enrolled in one of the district's schools pursuant to this article shall not be required to submit an application in order to remain enrolled.
- A court-ordered or voluntary desegregation plan of the district.
- How are the applications for Open Enrollment to be selected?
EC Section 48356 states that applications are selected through a random, unbiased process that prohibits an evaluation of whether or not the pupil should be enrolled based on his or her individual academic or athletic performance, or any of the other characteristics set forth in subdivision (a).
Pupils applying for a transfer pursuant to this article shall be assigned priority for approval as follows:
- First priority for the siblings of children who already attend the desired school.
- Second priority for pupils transferring from a program improvement school ranked in decile 1 on the API determined pursuant to subdivision (a) of EC Section 48352.
- If the number of pupils who request a particular school exceeds the number of spaces available at that school, a lottery shall be conducted in the group priority order identified in paragraphs (1) and (2) to select pupils at random until all of the available spaces are filled.
- First priority for the siblings of children who already attend the desired school.
- Can the transferring students displace any other pupil who resides within the attendance area of that school or is currently enrolled in that school?
When is the school of enrollment required to notify the applicant parent, or guardian and school district of residence?
EC Section 48357, pursuant to EC Section 48354, states that the school of enrollment is required to notify the applicant parent, or guardian and school district of residence in writing within 60 calendar days of receiving an application. (EC Section 48354) If an application is rejected, the desired school district of enrollment shall state in the notification the reasons for the rejection.
Are LEAs required to keep an accounting of all requests made for alternative attendance?
EC Section 48359 states that each school district is encouraged to keep an accounting of all requests made for alternative attendance pursuant to the Open Enrollment Act.
Do districts and schools have the right to appeal their inclusion on the Open Enrollment Act list?
Which Open Enrollment list does a school or LEA of enrollment use when providing notification of transfer options for the 2014–15 school year?
The Open Enrollment Schools List 2014–15 (XLS; Date 01-Oct-2013) is posted on the CDE Open Enrollment Web page.
- How often will a new Open Enrollment list be generated?
A new Open Enrollment list will be generated annually following the API release for use in the following school year.
What is the process for students seeking to transfer under the provisions of the Open Enrollment Act?
An application requesting a transfer pursuant to EC Section 48354 shall be submitted by the parent, or guardian of a pupil to the school district of enrollment prior to January 1 of the school year preceding the school year for which the pupil is requesting to transfer. The school district of enrollment may waive the deadline specified in this paragraph.
The application may request enrollment of the pupil in a specific school or program within the school district of enrollment. A pupil may enroll in a school district of enrollment in the school year immediately following the approval of his or her application.
In order to provide priority enrollment opportunities for pupils residing in the school district, a school district of enrollment shall establish a period of time for resident pupil enrollment prior to accepting transfer applications pursuant to the Open Enrollment Act. (EC Section 48354 [b]).
- How do I find a school with a higher API?
For Transfer in the 2014–15 School Year
First, you will need to know the 2013 Growth API score for your school of residence. You can find the "2013 Growth API" on the CDE API County List of Schools Web page.
To find a school with a higher API score, go to API County List of Schools and select a county. Under "Select Report", choose the "2013 Growth API Report - List of Schools in the County." Review the first column, "2013 Growth API" for the names of schools and API scores. Compare your current school of residence API score with the school you desire to attend. The score of the desired school must be higher than that of your school of residence in order for you to apply for transfer.
- When will the 2015–16 Open Enrollment list be posted?
The 2015–16 Open enrollment list will be posted in late fall of 2014 after the 2014 API scores have been calculated and posted.