Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New State Policy Deadline Looming


The Georgia legislature passed and the governor signed a new law requiring school systems to allow transfers within districts to flow freely. An addition to HB 251, part of the Quality Basic Education Act, it states,

Beginning in school year 2009-2010, the parent of a student enrolled in a public elementary or secondary school in this state may elect to enroll such student in a public school that is located within the school system in which the student resides other than the one to which the student has been assigned by the local board of education if such school has classroom space available after its assigned students have been enrolled. The parent shall assume the responsibility and cost of transportation of the student to and from the school.

Additionally, the bill requires school systems to set a written policy as to how they plan to implement the law, which schools will be accepting transfers and the application process.

No later than July 1, 2009, each local school system shall establish a universal, streamlined process available to all students to implement the transfer requirements of paragraph (1) of this subsection.

This Code section does not apply to newly opened schools with available classroom space for a period of four years after the school opens (Arabia) nor does it apply to charter schools (Chamblee). It also looks like due to its new IE2 status, Gwinnett County Public Schools will be able to circumvent this law.

I assume our Board is working up a policy and we will add it to this article as it becomes available. Other portions of this final version of the bill include a few school board ethics, but the private school vouchers and transfers from other counties were eliminated....for now.

51 comments:

No Duh said...

Yippee! Let's all go to Kittredge!! I'll drive the first week of carpool... :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my - That would mean that they had to live with more than 17 for a class size, and live like the rest of the school system. Couldn't have that ! And, don't forget they still offer transportation, even if inconvenienced by the lack of door to door service. As with the designation of shrinking resources, they are , of course exempt from such issues.

Anonymous said...

It will be very interesting to read how DeKalb and other school districts define what the legislature meant by "space available" (or whatever phrase is used in the statute).

I hope this also means that DCSS must end all administrative transfers for the next school year. It not, I predict that they will face a lawsuit from some family that applies for a transfer under the new law, but the available slots were filled with administrative transfers pushed through by insiders and/or Board members.

Cerebration said...

This surely is a can of worms and our Board has its work cut out for it to come up with a written policy by next week that doesn't conflict with AYP and that doesn't give preference to administrative transfers. This could be the perfect time to eliminate those and go with the state mandated transfer policy. They should use this opportunity to begin to streamline the entire "transfer/special programs" process. It's become quite a tangled mess.

pscexb said...

How about making this interesting and coming up with possible recommendations for how the policy should be written. Who knows, a board member might read the blog and run with it.... :)

Anonymous said...

How about:

"Space available" means that the school has instructional capacity for additional students based on the "as built" or "as designed" school building without taking into consideration any existing modular or portable buildings or additions to the primary or main school building.

In determining space availability, the school system must also take into account any reduced instructional capacity due to programs such as classes for English Language Learners, Special Education, Gifted courses, etc.

Anonymous said...

From the State DOE site:

Q. How is available classroom space defined?
A. A local school district is tasked with defining available classroom space. A
local school district may define available classroom space as permanent
classroom space and may determine if portable classroom space is or is not
included in its definition. Districts will want to consider factors such as projected
enrollment, maximum class size, available teachers, etc.

Q. Are districts required to develop greater available classroom space at specific
schools due to demands for transfers under HB-251.
A. Nothing in the Georgia Department of Education model framework requires
local school districts to secure additional space.

Q. Do districts need to prioritize available classroom space?
A. Yes. Local school districts must prioritize student transfers consistent with
Federal and state laws. Students eligible for transfer under the unsafe school
choice option (USCO) or Public School Choice under No Child Left Behind must
get first priority for available seats at those schools in the district that are not in
needs improvement.

Other suggestions and model letters are posted on state web. DCSS should define available classroom space to exclude trailers and portable classrooms. We need to eliminate them, not increase the number.

Ella Smith said...

This will be interesting to watch.

No Duh said...

To PSC's point:

Some thoughts on structuring a “State Transfer” process that will remain fair to local schools, yet allow space (when available) to other students.

I think DCSS must establish upfront that it considers State Transfers a privilege – not a right. And while it is a right (by law), DCSS will impose criteria that will clearly suggest that parents who want to request transfers may find it more disruptive to their student than it’s worth. Parents must put some “skin in the game.”

The assumptions must be – and therefore, the action must be taken by DCSS – that Administrative Transfers cease and desist. And, that school consolidation (particularly in the underutilized southern end of the county) happens sooner, rather than later.

The following is my stab at putting parameters around a state law that could so easily become subjective.

* Students shall be counted in the following order:
1)District students
2) AYP/Unsafe Schools transfers (if applicable)
3)“State Transfers” (ST)

* ST applications will be accepted May 1 – May ??(last day of school).

* State Transfers will be limited to up to 5 (five) per grade.

* Should more than five students per grade apply for a transfer and space is available, students will be chosen by lottery.

* Applications should be turned into the front office of the school being requested and the local school will become responsible for notifying accepted transfers and/or holding a lottery. This will eliminate the need for additional admin staff at the Central office.

* Available classroom space shall be defined as any classroom that has not met the guidelines for maximum class size. The School Board shall not authorize hiring an additional teacher to accommodate excessive class size caused by requested STs.

* If hiring a new teacher is required due to the district student population within a grade, the classrooms will be redistributed evenly and the five STs will be admitted should available space remain.

* Accepted students will be notified after the first FTE count occurs at the beginning of the school year. (Yes, that means transferring after the school year has begun – how badly do you want it parents?)

* Principals shall reserve the right to “hold” up to two classroom spaces per grade to accommodate late enrolling district students.

* ST students will not be grandfathered into any school to which they may be accepted. STs must reapply each year. Should there not be classroom space for such ST (based on order above) said student must return to his/he home school, or apply to a school with available classroom space.

* DCSS shall not allow Student Transfers in the first year offered at a school: i.e. Kindergarten, Sixth Grade and Ninth Grade. This provision is to force parents to at least try their home school, so they can make a decision about their home school from actual experience and not neighborhood gossips and naysayers.

* STs must adhere to conduct rules and will be returned to his/her home school after TWO referrals to the principal – no matter the nature of the infractions.

* Would maintaining a grade/GPA requirement be illegal?

* Siblings of STs must apply through the same process as all other STs. Siblings will not be automatically accepted because Administrative Transfers will no longer exist.

* If a ST is tardy more than 5 times in a semester, said student will be returned to his/her home school, as it will be clear the distance is too far for the transfer student to be able to comply with school start times.

* Excluding any after-school club/activity participation, if ST has not left the school campus by 45 mins.? after the end of the school day more than 5 times per semester, said student will be returned to his/her home school.

So, what do you experts think?

Anonymous said...

I think the new state law grandfathers the transfer students in until they finish the grades in that school.

Also, I think it would not pass muster to impose more stringent restrictions on students who are legitimately using a state law than are imposed on students who happen to live in the school's residence zone. Much of what you are proposing is already a rule, i.e. it violates school regulations to loiter on school property after school. The DCSS just never enforces this.

Many of the AYP transfer kids are always late yet we don't kick them out.

Anonymous said...

AYP transfers are different.

Dr. Lewis has said that for "choice" transfers (ie magnet) that excessive tardies are a reason to be dismissed.

Given how difficult it has been for them to find spaces at the high school level for AYP transfers, I can't imagine that this law

The law/guidelines doesn't require DCSS to add teachers to accommodate transfers and so you can be sure DCSS won't.

My understanding is that many of the bill's supporters have had buyer's remorse since it passed. I suspect it will be repealed/radically changed in the next legislative session.

No Duh said...

Just finished the article in the AJC about state transfers. Clear as mud, isn't it?

Looks like the bill requires grandfathering. Too bad. So the state tells the school systems to provide an implementation plan, but the law includes specifics on implementation.

It's clear that the lawmakers who voted for this bill have never stepped foot into a public school, much less been involved with a public school as a parent.

Cerebration said...

DeKalb already offers far and away more choices to students than any other school system in the state. Gwinnett, for example, is very strict about movement within attendance zones and is in fact working to circumvent this law.

I don't know how we are able to track students as it is within this highly flexible system.

DeKalb already offers magnet programs such as Chamblee, SW DeKalb, DSA, Kittredge and Wadsworth for high achieving (and artistically talented) students.

In addition, we now have the Arabia Mtn "choice" school for environment and science as well as DeKalb HS's of Technology North and South.

For those who simply struggle with finishing school, there's Open Campus. Or if you would like to challenge yourself as an at-risk student, you can try DeKalb Early College Academy (DECA). Another option to merge college into high school is a joint venture with Perimeter called, Gateway to College Academy.

For students with discipline issues or other at-risk issues, we have DeKalb Alternative School, DeKalb Alternative Night School, DeKalb Transition Academy, DeKalb Truancy School, Destiny Academy of Excellence

Our international students have the International School. Special education schools and centers include, Eagle Woods Academy, Margaret Harris High School (now combining with Heritage ES), Shadow Rock Psychoeducational Center, Warren Technical School, Coralwood Diagnostic Center, and in-hospital schooling in partnership with Children's HealthCare of Atlanta.

Of course, we have several thousand students exercising their AYP transfer options as well as thousands with special permission (administrative) transfers.

Whatever the board decides, I would encourage them to implement some streamlining. Think of the gas and traffic congestion we are creating with so many students criss-crossing the county every day.

Cerebration said...

oops - forgot DESA - and the military academy (next year)... I'm sure there's more.

Dunwoody Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
themommy said...

Cere

You forgot the handful of charter schools and the very popular theme elementary, middle and high (Arabia Mountain exists in its current form because of the desire of theme school parents to have a high school). It may not be called a theme school -- but it is-- uniforms and parental involvement requirements and all.

However, it isn't full. The spaces in 10th and 11th grade didn't full. I suspect that S. DeKalb parents are only interested in choices (at the secondary level) that are in N. DeKalb.

pscexb said...

FWIW, this is also the blog topic on the AJC today. You can see it at:

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2009/06/24/transfers_school_choice.html?cxntlid=homepage_tab_newstab

Great suggestions by No Duh also on a policy. It will be interesting to see how 'space' is defined.

Anonymous said...

Now that Clayton County is re-accredited, do we really think there will be that many kids trying to get IN to DCSS? I would think it would be the other way around.

Molly said...

DeKalb already offers far and away more choices to students than any other school system in the state.

DeKalb doesn't offer choices, it offers chances. You may choose to enter a lottery, but that doesn't mean you have a choice about where your child attends school. For my 3 children, I have entered DeKalb lotteries 11 times, and never been offered a seat. This year, I received a letter telling me that one of my children was #106 on the waiting list for our desired school. Not a whole lot of choice from where I am sitting.

Molly said...

* DCSS shall not allow Student Transfers in the first year offered at a school: i.e. Kindergarten, Sixth Grade and Ninth Grade. This provision is to force parents to at least try their home school, so they can make a decision about their home school from actual experience and not neighborhood gossips and naysayers.

Parents often have first hand experience with their home school because they have more than one child. Don't assume that parents don't have actual experience.

Dunwoody Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ella Smith said...

Gwinnett and Forsyth Counties have a special agreement with the state board of education. They do not have to abide by state guidelines and they will produce better test-results. I am not for sure all the details but the state board did approve their special permission not to be under the same umbrella as everyone else so this is why they do not have to abide by this law. It is not about this law. It is about their agreement witht he state board about not having to abide by the guidelines and laws, etc. I am not for sure I worded this correctly but hopefully Molly you will get the idea.

Cerebration said...

Yes, it's a new contract with the state. I copied this from the state website -

http://gov.georgia.gov/00/press/detail/0,2668,78006749_104557561_105797673,00.html

Governor Sonny Perdue announced today the filing of legislation creating the Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2) Partnership that will increase student achievement and promote opportunities for an excellent education for all Georgia’s students. The legislation will be sponsored by Representative Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), Chairman of the House Education Committee.

“The new IE2 Partnership completely redefines the relationship between the state and local school systems,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “Now, future conversations about education can focus on student achievement results.”

The IE2 Partnership will allow local school systems to voluntarily enter into an agreement with the state that sets up a system of performance contracts that allow for greater flexibility in return for increased accountability. The contract between the state and the local school system will ultimately be approved by the State Board of Education.

The performance of each school system will be based on goals set over a three year period during which the local school system will agree to achieve certain results.

Cerebration said...

The AJC has posted the results of the graduation tests and CRCT. If you'd like to check out your school before applying for that transfer -- visit these links. (If you want to look at a total listing of all schools, just pull down DeKalb and leave the school pull down blank.)

GRADUATION TESTS
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2009/06/08/graduation-test-database.html

CRCT
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/georgia-crct-scores-2009.html

No Duh said...

Molly makes a good point. You could consider DCSS' choice options as chance options.

But, I'm going to go out on a limb and place a bet that one of the schools Molly applied to was Kittredge. True Molly? When you didn't get in, did you apply at Wadsworth -- the other High Achievers magnet school in DCSS?

I know MANY parents in our neighborhood whose relationship with our local schools is contentious. These hyper parents seem to see something I'm just not seeing. They are constantly at the school -- not helping, but nagging. In their eyes, nothing is good enough for their little Johnny/Janie. Honestly, I don't think they'll be happy anywhere in the system. There is always another problem, a "bad" teacher that convinces the parent that the whole school must be avoided, a principal that doesn't ask "How high?" when the parent says "Jump," etc. These parents are constantly trying to get out of their local schools by applying to the lotteries at magnets.

Ironically, my kids attend great DCSS schools -- the ones everyone wants to get into. To the hyper neighborhood parents, I say, "don't let the door hit you in the butt."

And to the hyper parents who move into their neighborhoods and then are surprised how "bad" their local school is, there is only one solid solution for you -- MOVE INTO A NEIGHBORHOOD YOU THINK HAS A SUPERIOR SCHOOL.

Can't afford it? Then stay there and make a difference. Do the kinds of things Kim is doing in his neighborhood -- BEFORE your children hit school age. Be a leader in your community. Ask the principal how the community can help the school. Set up neighborhood meet and greets -- invite your school board member. MEET your school board member -- not just to complain or request an Administrative Transfer.

Why should people who actually moved into the neighborhood (put their money where their mouth is)so their children could attend the schools be forced to admit transfer students? Students of parents who want everything, but don't want to put any skin in the game.

Why are north DeKalb schools filled to the brim and crumbling apart while several south DeKalb schools are nearly empty and brand spanking new? BECAUSE OF TRANSFERS!!!

Plenty of "rich" people live in south and east DeKalb. Please don't tell me superior schools must go hand and hand with local income. There are plenty of neighborhoods down south that I know my husband and I could not afford to live in.

But, we researched the schools in DeKalb -- north, south, east and west. We visited the neighborhoods of the schools we thought were promising. We compared the home prices in these neighborhoods. We choose to send our children to a school in a neighborhood we could afford. The point being... We looked at the schools FIRST and THEN looked at the houses. And, I'm sorry so many people didn't plan it that way when they choose to sign a mortgage. But, whose fault is that?

I'm rambling, but school "choice" is such a ridiculous concept, and it has done nothing but undermine the reputation of schools across the county.

There should only be ONE choice:
Public or private

Ella Smith said...

Cerebration, you need to put this up as a main article for all to see. This is too good.

Cerebration said...

Exactly true, no duh. I have reported here several times about the number of transfers (of all kinds) at Lakeside HS. In fact, there are 400 student there who are not accounted for - as to where they come from -- mystery kids! The principal sent out an accounting of students for the school council - citing 148 AYP transfers, 65 special permission transfers and 400 others deemed "new to Lakeside".

Ironically, we have not been redistricted, nor have we had huge, new housing or apartment developments, yet, we find ourselves with 400 "new" students. Mysterious.

So - adding these - we have 613 extra students in the building. (Thus the need for 22 trailers.) No fear, the school system will be adding 29 additional classrooms to the building to accommodate the future unchecked influx. And I'll place a bet -- Arabia will never fill to capacity.

Cerebration said...

No duh, you are welcome to become a front page writer. If you would like to post original articles, send me an email (create a generic one to use here - say, noduh@yahoo.com... ) to reparteeforfun@gmail.com and I'll send you an invitation to publish.

We're trying to make this a team effort -- and it's going quite well...

Ella Smith said...

pscexb, email me at ella.smith@att.net or call me at 404-634-4418.

I need to ask you something.

fedupindcss said...

Yesterday Anon. 2:09suggested a lawsuit from parents who did not get their legally available state-mandated transfer because of crowding at their chosen school. I think that is brilliant. I would take it one step further, and make it a class-action suit. That is the kind of thing that gets DCSS's attention. Unlike AYP or these new choice transfers, garden-variety administrative transfers can be pulled at any time; there is no guarantee that you get to stay until the terminal grade at that school.

Okay, any attorneys out there willing to take this one on? A grudge against DCSS is a plus.

Molly said...

No duh wrote....Why should people who actually moved into the neighborhood (put their money where their mouth is)so their children could attend the schools be forced to admit transfer students? Students of parents who want everything, but don't want to put any skin in the game.

Because some people can't afford to move into the neighborhood but still think that their kids deserve a decent education. Find me an inexpensive apartment in the Livsey school district....you can't because their isn't a single apartment complex that feeds into Livsey. If you can't afford to buy your own home, sorry, you can't go to Livsey. No skin in the game, as it were.

Or perhaps some people have more than one child, whose needs can't be served by the same school. Sorry, out of luck....you can't send your second child to a different school because you have no skin in the game.

I pay DeKalb county taxes. Not local neighbor school taxes. I have skin in the game in every school in this county, and if my neighborhood school isn't serving my kids needs, than I should be able to look elsewhere. How many years of my kids education should I waste away while I try to improve a school? I can't choose curriculum, hire competent teachers or administrators, fire incompetent staff, determine how FTE points are used...but I can hold a nifty bake sale and host a teacher appreciation luncheon. Sorry, my kids have real skin in the game and I'm not going to wait around for improvements that move at a glacial pace.

Cerebration said...

Molly - right too. I am sad that our school system is so uneven in its delivery of education. Just take a look at the CRCT and graduation test scores published on the AJC. We have schools that scored 95 on the GHSGT (DSA) and schools that scored 40 (ironically, Gateway to College). If some schools are not performing well, we need to send in the troops (no not the military) - tutors, smaller classes, after school care -- whatever it takes to support these students. Children shouldn't have to rely on the cleverness of their parents' ability to secure them a transfer to a successful school.

Conversely, high-performing schools can't be expected to take on so many students from schools that fail. Lakeside should not have to put up 22 trailers and suffer over-crowding because other schools are under-serving their students.

Remember though, many students perform well simply due to their home situations (they can learn no matter who their teacher is or where they attend school because they are tutored and otherwise supported at home). A child with a mother who completed college, it is proven will do better in school.

There are some gaps that can't be made up - however, no school should continually receive failing marks where the only survivors are the ones who jump ship.

The gap is far too wide.

fedupindcss said...

Molly--yes, it's true that we all pay Dekalb Co. taxes, which go to all the schools.

That said, people pay different rents, prices for houses, and property taxes based on the location of their home. Often that cost is based upon the school in that attendance zone (usually the elementary school--the middle/high schools have less of an effect). So there is definitely the school of thought that if you were willing to sacrifice to pay more for a house to get into a better school district, then those who get transfers are receiving the benefit you paid for.

To take this further, it also goes to the question of what constitutes a community. Schools are usually the center of a community, and it behooves the members of a community to work to improve it. Most, if not all, of the schools in DCSS that are at the top, educationally, have abnormal levels of parent involvement (Kittredge and Chamblee may be the exception--many students live too far away for parent involvement, but you are aggregating high-achieving students). It is almost impossible to deny that the parents of students who come from across the county cannot (and often do not) get involved at their transfer schools. They are not going to turn around after a day of work, after their kid has spent two hours on a bus getting home, to turn around and go back. There are the rare exceptions, but that is what they are, rare. Ironically, the transfer parents tend to be among the loudest complainers when something at the school is not up to snuff--they won't work to fix it, but they will yell about it (I have seen this phenomenon firsthand).

Indeed, if these communities worked to improve their neighborhood schools, not only would the school get better, but their property values would rise, better businesses would want to come in, and the quality of life would improve.

Anonymous said...

The profound differences within Dekalb reflect, first and foremost, a profound crisis within the African-American/black community. Until these issues are addressed head on by a determined school administration little, if anything, will change.

Molly said...

fedupindcss said...That said, people pay different rents, prices for houses, and property taxes based on the location of their home. Often that cost is based upon the school in that attendance zone (usually the elementary school--the middle/high schools have less of an effect). So there is definitely the school of thought that if you were willing to sacrifice to pay more for a house to get into a better school district, then those who get transfers are receiving the benefit you paid for.

It is not the responsibility of the school district to protect the property values of those fortunate enough to buy into a good school zone. The school district exists to educate children - ALL of the children, regardless of how much their parents can pay in mortgage or rent. Property values have no place in the argument. Otherwise, let's just rank all the children by the amount of school tax their parents pay (either directly or through their rent payments) and give those with the highest dollar value first dibs on school choice. For those who live in subsidized housing or homeless shelters, since they aren't paying in (no skin in the game, as no duh would say) there should be no need for the county to educate them at all.....

No Duh said...

PTA -- with their "nifty bake sales" -- is one of, of not the largest organization in the nation that advocates for children. Where do you think that the profits from that nifty bake sale go? They provide supplies for the school and items for the teachers that aren't funded by the school system. They provide opportunities for outside speakers (famous children's book authors, famous athlete's, etc.) to come to school and interact with the children.

Why do you think teachers at Evansdale Elementary beg not to be transferred or stay for 25-plus years? Because the students are so bright? Because the building is so new? Because the cafeteria food is so much better? NO! It's because the PTA (and the community as a whole) is known as one of the most involved, committed and devoted PTA's in DCSS (EES is just one of many DCSS schools who can claim this, BTW). Teachers who come to EES from other schools think they have stepped into the land of milk and honey. They have never been supported so well.

And guess what? When you get involved with the school (not just your child's classroom, but the whole school), you will begin to understand how the school works -- what teachers really can and can't do for children. How the administration deals with conflict, etc. When you make personal connections with the teachers and staff that are based on mutual respect instead of animosity, you will be amazed by the "goodness" of your neighborhood school.

Ella Smith said...

The purpose of public education to to education all of our children in DeKalb County. The problem is that either the educational opportunities are not the same, the children do not come as prepared to learn, or the parents do not work with the schools to provide a team where learning can occur.

In some situations the educational opportunites may not be the same. The best teachers want to teach at the best schools and try to eventually transfer to the best schools many times. Many times students do not come to school prepare and the parents do not work with the schools to provide the ultimate environment for learning.

I see both sides. People spend big prices for small houses in good school districts so their children can go to school at those schools. Then another parent can drive across town and enter their child in that school that the one parent has to pay through the noise those big house payments.

On the other hand the other parents wants the best education for their child and will anything to get it. We all would do the same thing if we were in their situation.

Cerebration said...

Teachers absolutely do gravitate toward schools with high achieving students and involved parents. The BEST teachers I have encountered in DCSS were in Kittredge. That may have changed since the move and the new rules implemented by Johnny Brown.

Question -- Anon, what profound crisis within the African-American/black community are you talking about? I think, in DeKalb our African American students have considerable access to high quality schools, nice homes and do quite well overall...

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that we have not addressed the true necessity and equitable factor for magnet/high achiever schools. As with the principle of helping to make your community school better, how is it beneficial to pull out those students who are identified as eligible for these schools. Even if the criteria have been so altered to be ridiculous........ How does that help the school improve? Yes, the dreaded " brain drain" concept is somewhat true.
And, I agree, those parents who drive across the county are not typically involved ( south to north or north to south ).

And we ask ourselves " Is Wadsworth at capacity?" and why are we ( the tax payers of the county ) paying millions of dollars to transport children past one "choice ( ha ha ) school" to get to another.

Molly, I think that your point is well taken. There are plenty of issues beyond what size and type of house you can afford. This is good for folks who can buy in the budget area in the highest achieving district. And, no duh, I totally agree with getting out there and trying to make a difference. I have enjoyed every hour ( and there have been plenty of them ) that I worked for our neighborhood school. But, honestly, if it were in trouble it would be extremely difficult to make a big difference. Let's be real. We have all dealth with DCSS and it just isn't that easy.

No Duh said...

I wish the outgoing Sequoyah Middle School PTO President would weigh in here. She obviously would bring insight into why even a poorly performing (or majority hispanic, or majority low income, you name it) school is worth getting involved in.

Molly, it is not solely about the price of the real estate. Though statistics do show a correlation to income and school quality (not just in DeKalb, but across the nation.) I am thoroughly convinced that our children are getting (and got) just as good an education at Evansdale as they would have if we could have afforded to live in Dunwoody and attend Vanderlyn. But, I have taken the time to study and understand the complexity and irony of test scores, and I now understand that the highest percentage of kids scoring the best on the CRCT or ITBS is really no indicator of the quality of the school.

For example, there are schools immediately surrounding Evansdale and a little farther out that do produce better scores -- Livsey being one of them, BTW. I'm pretty sure we could afford a home in those schools' districts. But, I have learned not to make a knee-jerk reaction to schools with better scores ("They must have all the good teachers. They must have rich students. They must have a science lab and a new library, blah, blah, blah."). For instance, Livsey typically scores slightly higher than Evansdale on standardized tests. But, I know that a 2, 3 or even 5 percentage point difference can be (and often is) attributable to one or two students failing. I also know that Evansdale has a higher population of Special Ed students. So, I don't freak out because I know that our children are doing well and the teachers are good and caring.

I also don't yank our children out of a school because one year they may be assigned a "bad" teacher. I know intrinsically that one year of not so great teaching is not going to ruin my child. Should I protest, scream at the principal, demand my child be removed from that classroom, write the superintendent, etc. No.

Now a parent like Molly may think I am a bad parent for not caring, or lazy or unable to define "excellence" or a fool. My husband and I do not worry about our children because we are their parents.

I worry about the children who do not have parents or guardians who treasure education as much as my family does. I worry about the children who do not have the drive to learn because their value system has been influenced differently.

I know that a building does not educate a child. A community does. When families join into the community's efforts to educate all the children in their local school it implies a common goal.

A quality educational experience derived from a transfer has nothing to do with the name of the school into which the child transfers. Or, as my great grandmother used to say, "You get out of something exactly what you put into it."

I do so wish DCSS would track the progress of AYP transfers into LHS (for example). Can the LHS atmosphere of excellence educate a child? We shouldn't be afraid of the answer -- we could learn a great deal from it.

Cerebration said...

Well said, no duh. I have been saying for a long time now that the idea that transferring to a "better" school will not (most of the time) make for a great education. To the best of my limited ability, I do try to track Lakeside to some extent. The most I can offer is that we have a couple of hundred transfers most years in the freshman class. Year after year, we lose students - and I would wage a bet that they are mostly transfer students. You see - Lakeside assigns an awful lot of homework and the 7 period day is pretty demanding. Most high achieving students have parents who help after school or attend tutoring (ask anyone who Ginger at A+ Learning is...!) Unless Lakeside also offers tutoring and extra support for students who transfer in, these students will continue to flounder. And - who knows where they go? No one bothers to track - pretty much once they are given the golden ticket to Lakeside or wherever - they are considered "served"...

It's a lazy and ineffective solution.

Molly said...

no duh said...I also don't yank our children out of a school because one year they may be assigned a "bad" teacher. I know intrinsically that one year of not so great teaching is not going to ruin my child.

I agree that one year of bad teaching is not going to "ruin" my child. But what if my child didn't have the advantages of educated parents and middle class privilege? Each year of a bad teacher is a year of falling further and further behind for many kids. What if it is more than one year? What if it goes beyond "not so great teaching" to "really incompetent teaching" or "no teaching at all?" How many years of a child's education is a parent expected to throw away before they are allowed to exercise some choice?

Moreover, what if it isn't about a good school vs. a bad school? What about just a better fit. After sending my oldest to our neighborhood school with its excellent scores and reputation, I did not enroll my younger kids there. I elected instead to send them to a school with a high poverty rate and significantly lower test scores. It was clear that the neighborhood school was not the right fit for my children, despite the fact that it looks great on paper. At my non-neighborhood school, we have a significant number of transfer students, all of whom have very involved parents (including PTA officers and school council members).

Parents become involved with a school when they feel invested in a school. Families trapped in a rotten school don't have any reason to feel invested, and minimal power to influence things that really matter such as the quality of the teaching and discipline. School improvement drives parent involvement, not the other way around. Except for the rarest of optimists, people have to feel that their investment of time and energy make a difference.

I agree that a school functions best when it creates a sense of community and shared goals, but you can't create that community by imprisoning students in schools that can't or won't meet their needs.

Ella Smith said...

I also would want my child to be in the best educational environment possible. Every parent on this site wants that. That is the reason we all are on this site.

There is no easy answer. Years ago the Dekalb County School Board tried to move teachers around. To my understanding that was a big flop. Teachers got upset and left the system. Now the Dekalb County School Board are trying to move principals around. This is a much easier solution. Hopefully it will work.

Kim Gokce said...

No Duh: "Do the kinds of things Kim is doing in his neighborhood -- BEFORE your children hit school age. Be a leader in your community."

I can't let that go by without a thank you - I often question whether I'm wasting precious hours of my family's life and the encouragement is appreciated. Perhaps its my Turkish and Scottish heritage - can't help but want to fight! :)

fedupindcss: "Kittredge and Chamblee may be the exception--many students live too far away for parent involvement"

While you obviously are speaking from some 1st hand experiences I have to add that I have heard the opposite as well. Just today, the magnet parents were described to me privately by a leader at one of the high profile schools as the most involved and willing to help and the "community" parents as taking the school for granted.

No Duh: you will be amazed by the "goodness" of your neighborhood school.

After looking at Woodward ES and Cross Keys HS, I am convinced that DCSS can only bring 1/3 of the ingredients for success. The other 1/3 must come from the families in the school and the final 1/3 from the community (civic and commercial) immediately surrounding the school. That is what makes my 2 neighborhood schools' success so problematic as we've discussed at length elsewhere on this blog. Without an attendance zone that has any cohesion to it, that final 1/3 is virtually impossible. That puts our schools nearly 2/3 behind what's needed.

I'm starting to believe the DCSS would be best serving the public by adopting one the axioms of MDs ... "First do no harm." It seems like there is a lot of effort put into "fixing" things that are the direct result of earlier "fixes." Sure wish we could get back to what is proven to be successful and stick with it. I know I sound like a dinosaur but the neighborhood school concept it the only thing that makes sense to me in the long run.

Anon: "We have all dealth with DCSS and it just isn't that easy."

I am alone in being somewhat appalled by the memo circulated to DCSS staff this week? See Superintendent: Suspects in CRCT case should be 'allowed to move on' ... I get the need to maintain morale on a 'team' but this is ridiculous. The only family DCSS should be worried about is the one behind each child in DeKalb.

Kim Gokce said...

As soon as I wrote this, I realized it was an over simplification: "I know I sound like a dinosaur but the neighborhood school concept it the only thing that makes sense to me in the long run."

I mean to say that the neighborhoods and the neighborhood schools are the foundation of success - not that we can't also foster specialized/theme/magnet schools. We just can't do so and neglect the traditional neighborhood schools.

Anonymous said...

Kim,
Agreed that n'hood schools are the key. Don't agree that we should continue magnets, they are a brain drain and promote " flight vs fight" for those parents who could be making a difference like you are trying to do. Perhaps an arts school? ,but leave those who happen to qualify for High Achiever magnets in the n'hood school and the n'hood school should elevate services to challenge them. I think that is really what parents are seeking. Not to escape from a school, but to gain academically appropriate services. Besides, if we took all that money that we use to operate magnets, not to mention the transportation dollars for hauling kids all over the county - Just think how enriching those dollars could be for n'hood schools.
On the parent front, not so sure about high levels of participation when you live on the other end of the county ( north or south . Unless of course you are speaking of taking something away !
But given the magnitude of issues, I don't think DCSS could recognize this issue or have the guts to do anything about it. They wouldn't even save the county millions of dollars by giving responsibility to parents to get their children to a " choice " school even though now we will with the 7/1/9 law.

Cerebration said...

Magnet schools were created as a response to the US Supreme Court to integrate DCSS. The spending was tracked as to north vs south for decades - and after one court presentation in the 80's where the spending was found to be $45 more per child in the north, then one in the 90's where it was like $11 more per child in the south, as well as the population reaching over 60 or 70% black, the system was declared "unified"...

Yet the magnets remain.

Anonymous said...

So is DCSS going to wait until midnight tomorrow to post the information about what schools are available for transfer and how to apply? I did not see anything on the website. I see that Cobb already posted their information several days ago.

themommy said...

Rep. Morgan pursued this law, in part, because she had a constituent who couldn't continue on to the high school in the feeder pattern where the student already had an admin transfer. When it was a bill, it was amended to only allow students to stay until the latest grade in a school. Two of the high schools on the list are widely regarded to be Cobb's worst. I think Ms. Morgan and her South Cobb constituents will be disappointed in the choices.

Secondly, the elementary school list is really long and there are some really good elementary schools on the list. Tritt? Timber Ridge? These are good schools. Should be interesting.

Ella Smith said...

Dekalb County will post at the last minute.

It is all interesting. I do feel that if we had quality schools throughout the county this would not be a problem.

I understand how Molly must feel. She wants what is best for her children which is no different than any of us want. The question is how do we make our schools in Dekalb County quality scores throughout the county.

I think the first step is getting some administrators at the county office out of the county office and into our classroom across the county supervising our teacher and giving our teachers assistant in improving the instruction of our teachers. I do not think all these administrators are very effective at the county office but I do think they could be effective in the classroom helping teachers improve their methods of instruction.

themommy said...

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/hb251.html

DeKalb has posted its plan...

It will be interesting to see if anyone takes those spaces at Atherton or McNair Middle. But I bet there will be a big waiting list for those spaces at Oak Grove in kindergarten. Molly, Livsey even has a few spaces!

They are not going to add teachers to accommodate new transfer students. There are four different documents.

enjoy!