New York City Eases Student Transfer Rules

Published November 30, 2016

A change in New York City regulations makes it easier for public school students to transfer out of schools that aren’t meeting their needs.

“A parent or student may request a transfer if a student is not progressing or achieving academically or socially and an alternative placement would address these concerns,” state the new rules approved by the New York City Department of Education in September.

Before the rule change, parents and students had to prove they were enduring a “hardship” to obtain a transfer approval. The hardship policy, in place since 2003, meant only students experiencing safety concerns, medical problems, or excessively long commutes were granted transfers.

“Now, parents can request a guidance transfer, and the city’s central enrollment office will make a final decision,” reports. “Education department documents say that officials can request and review different evidence for each case, and the district superintendent must approve any transfer requested for academic reasons.”

‘Finding the Right Fit’

Charles Sahm, director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute, says families should be allowed to customize their children’s learning experiences.

“This is a good idea,” Sahm said. “Anything that promotes freedom of choice is a good thing. … It’s all about finding the right fit for the independent student.”

How Easy?

Pamela Wheaton, managing editor of, a nonprofit organization that reviews New York City’s public schools, says the new transfer rules are good in theory but may be less impressive in practice.

“We get comments every day from students who want to transfer. … But what’s not clear to me yet is how easy the transfers will really be to get.”

Wheaton says part of the problem is schools can accommodate only so many students.

“There are a lot of schools in New York City you really don’t want to go to,” Wheaton said. “But in the ones where you do, [you have to consider] where there’s going to be space. So, this rule doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who’s unhappy in their school on Friday will be getting a transfer on Monday.”

Looking at Other Options

Sahm says other cities have adopted transfer practices that work.

“In Denver, they have open enrollment. In that [system,] parents are given the choice of district or charter schools,” Sahm said.

Wheaton, says creating smaller local schools in each borough of the city would provide some viable options for parents and students tired of problems inherent in larger facilities, such as class size.

“I think that’s doable,” Wheaton said. “In the last four years, the city has closed a lot of the big, bad schools and created little schools.”

Cheryl K. Chumley ([email protected]) writes from Northern Virginia.


New York City Department of Education, Summary of Transfer Changes, September 22, 2016: