We aren't talking here about the natural progression from elementary to middle to high school, or the need to move schools as part of a family move from one place to another -- whether in the same school district or across the country. We've addressed these issues before for students with IEPs and there are specific rules to be followed for such moves.
What can be most difficult for families is determining whether their current school is meeting their child's needs and, if not, what can be done to make things better. Whether parental concerns are based on lack of academic progress, social or emotional issues, safety, or distance, there are usually steps that can and should be taken before a decision to change schools is made.
The first step is generally to meet with your child's teacher, even if the teacher may be part of the problem. See for yourself what the teacher is like (if you haven't already met him/her) and get the teacher's take on the issues that concern you. If the teacher is unwilling or unable to make changes to address your concerns, consider whether a meeting with the principal or another administrator might be helpful. Such meetings can be useful if you want to switch your child to another class or teacher or to have your child placed in a special program -- a gifted track, a bi-lingual class, or a class of diverse learners with a regular and special education teacher in one room.
But, sometimes these steps are insufficient. If the problems your child is facing are academic or behavioral, this is the time to request an evaluation to determine whether she or he meets the criteria for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504. The evaluation is the first step in this process. The IDEA also provides for a functional behavioral assessment for children whose behavior is of concern.
Another issue that might make your child's current school problematic is bullying. In New York City, children who are bullied may be entitled to a transfer to a different school. Our colleagues at Advocates for Children have created an excellent guide to recognizing and dealing with bullying and the right to a transfer.
What about issues that your child's school or district can't really change in the short term? Is your child's class size simply too large? Does the school or the area in which it is located have safety issues? Is it too long a trip for your child to get to school? Does he or she have a talent or skill that the school can do little to support? Or might your child have an IEP and need a specific service, such as speech and language therapy or a reading teacher with training in dyslexia remediation, that your school does not provide and is unwilling or unable to offer? These situations may be reasons to consider changing schools. We'll address the steps to take to make such a change in a later blog post -- and in our March 6th webinar. We hope you listen in and submit your questions.