WASHINGTON (AP) _ Students in an estimated 7,200 public schools could be eligible for transfers to another public school this fall, the Education Department said Wednesday. Earlier department estimates put the number of ``failing'' schools at 3,000 to 5,000.
Students in these schools could be eligible for federally paid transportation to another school. In some cases, they could also be eligible for free tutoring.
Part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that President Bush signed in January included a requirement that students in grades three through eight be tested annually in reading and math.
For the first time, students in schools where scores do not improve over three years could transfer to another public school, with most of their transportation costs paid. After four years, students could be eligible for federally funded tutoring.
Few states have set up the new testing programs _ and will not have to until the 2005-2006 school year. But since 1994, states have been required to test students three times in their school careers. Those schools in which scores have not risen quickly enough have been considered ``failing.''
The new requirements could cost school districts millions of dollars as they scramble to set up tutoring and transportation programs for students this fall.
Undersecretary of Education Eugene Hickok said school officials should not be surprised that these services will be required for students at struggling schools.
``We have been persistent in telling everybody that this is going to happen,'' he said.
Hickok said the 7,200-school estimate was based on reports from about 42 states. A final figure, expected later this month, could bring the total higher.
There are about 91,000 public elementary and secondary schools in the United States.