Stu­dents flee­ing from fail­ing schools

NCSS feels ef­fects of No Child Left Be­hind school choice op­tion

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Jenny Thompson

Ad­min­is­tra­tors of the New­ton County School Sys­tem re­cently re­ported a dras­tic in­crease in the num­bers of lo­cal stu­dents trans­fer­ring from schools fail­ing to meet all re­quire­ments man­dated by the No Child Left Be­hind Act.

By Aug. 10, the dead­line to sub­mit trans­fer ap­pli­ca­tions, 431 stu­dents had opted out of at­tend­ing the school in their res­i­den­tial dis­trict. Last year only 56 stu­dents trans­ferred as a re­sult of the NCLB’s school choice op­tion.

Tab Bell, NCSS di­rec­tor of sup­port ser­vices, said the in­crease could have stemmed from the ad­di­tion of an­other school fail­ing to meet Ad­e­quate Yearly Progress, but com­mu­ni­ca­tion with par­ents prob­a­bly af­fected the num­bers more.

“ We had a dif­fer­ent time­line first of all,” Bell said, “ and I think we did a bet­ter job of let­ting par­ents know ear­lier what their op­tions were this year.”

This year, three schools in the dis­trict had to of­fer school choice be­cause not enough stu­dents in the dis­abil­i­ties sub­group met or ex­ceeded stan­dards on the Cri­te­rion- Ref­er­enced Com­pe­tency Tests.

Por­terdale El­e­men­tary and Cle­ments Mid­dle failed to meet AYP for the sec­ond or more con­sec­u­tive year, mark­ing them as in need of “ school im­prove­ment.”

Al­though Mid­dle Ridge El­e­men­tary met AYP this year, they did not last year or the year be­fore and must of­fer school choice un­til they meet AYP for two con­sec­u­tive years.

Oak Hill El­e­men­tary did not meet AYP for the 20062007 school year but will not have to of­fer school choice un­less it does not meet AYP this school year.

Each of the schools hav­ing to of­fer school choice hosted par­ent in­for­ma­tion nights ex­plain­ing that only one sub­group out of 10 ( el­e­men­tary) and 14 ( mid­dle) had lower per­cent­ages of stu­dents meet­ing or ex­ceed­ing stan­dards than the state re­quires.

Many de­cided to keep their chil­dren at the school af­ter hear­ing their child’s sub­group was not af­fected, ac­cord­ing to Bell. The meet­ings, how­ever, did not de­ter oth­ers even though their chil­dren were not in the dis­abil­i­ties sub­group.

“ I would say that the greater per­cent­age trans­fer­ring are nor­mal ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents that are gen­er­ally suc­cess­ful in school,” Bell said.

Deb­o­rah Robert­son, NCSS as­so­ci­ate su­per­in­ten­dent for ad­min­is­tra­tion, said stu­dents are not the only ones af­fected by school choice.

“ When a stu­dent moves,” Rober­son said, “ ev­ery­thing has to move with him.”

Teach­ers, books, desks, trail­ers and Ti­tle I funds will fol­low the stu­dents to their trans­fer schools.

“ We will con­tinue to look at class size and see what classes are needed at re­ceiv­ing schools and which can be de­creased at the send­ing schools,” Robert­son said.

Since the sys­tem must still pro­vide trans­fer stu­dents with trans­porta­tion to and from school un­der the act, the dis­trict hired five ad­di­tional bus driv­ers and still needs one more to drive the 12 ex­tra routes needed for NCLB trans­fer stu­dents.

Routes for trans­fer stu­dents will be­gin Aug. 20.

In­dian Creek Mid­dle will re­ceive the most trans­fer stu­dents. This school year Prin­ci­pal Sa­man­tha Fuhrey said the school added eight trailer class­rooms to its cam­pus — two for growth within their at­ten­dance zone and six for NCLB trans­fers.

Fuhrey also needs to fill seven in­struc­tional va­can­cies be­cause the in­creased en­roll­ment has caused classes to ex­ceed the max­i­mum class size for­mu­lated by the state.

She said other than field­ing phone calls from in­ter­ested po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees, the in­flux has pro­gressed much more smoothly than an­tic­i­pated.

“ I think peo­ple are ex­pect­ing things to be very dif­fi­cult,” Fuhrey said, “ but ac­tu­ally all of the cogs of the wheel have fit to­gether ap­pro­pri­ately and at the right time.”

She said her staff has iden­ti­fied at- risk stu­dents and will pro­vide tu­tor­ing, re­me­dial cour­ses and mo­ti­va­tional sup­port to them.

Fuhrey added that par­ents and the com­mu­nity should be pa­tient and not worry be­cause qual­i­fied per­son­nel at the schools and cen­tral of­fice are ded­i­cated to serv­ing the chil­dren of New­ton County.

“ The com­mu­nity needs to know ev­ery­thing will be fine af­ter ev­ery­thing set­tles down and we get th­ese stu­dents where they need to be,” Fuhrey said.

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