DeKalb School System Offers "Choice Option" for Northside & SES Students

January 28, 2011
Dwayne Page

With the latest report card on DeKalb County Schools showing that Northside Elementary and it's feeder school Smithville Elementary did not meet the established benchmark in the Hispanic subgroup for Reading/Language Arts according to the No Child Left Behind mandate, letters have been sent home to parents of these students giving them an option to transfer their children to DeKalb West School, which did meet the benchmark, or the students may participate in after school tutoring.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, children in schools in need of improvement must be given the opportunity to transfer to other public schools in their district, and under the law, school districts are required to tell parents about this option, as well as pay for transportation to the other schools.

Along with the letters, parents of Northside and Smithville Elementary School students have also received a form to fill out and return by February 4th if they want to take advantage of the "Public School Choice" option which would allow them to transfer their child or children to DeKalb West School.

Last year, Northside and it's feeder school, Smithville Elementary, were identified by the Tennessee Department of Education as "Target schools" in DeKalb County because a sub-group of students with disabilities failed to meet the adequate yearly progress (AYP) benchmark in the Reading and Language Arts category.

Northside and Smithville Elementary are now identified as schools in "School Improvement 1", which means that students did not meet state and federal goals within the Hispanic subgroup in Reading/Language Arts.

Dr. Danielle Collins, Federal Programs Supervisor for the School System, explained that parents of students at Northside or Smithville Elementary are not required to transfer their child or children to DeKalb West School. It is only an option available to them. "Every spring, students in grades 3 though 8 take the TCAP tests. We get these results in various sub-groups, such as all students, white, Hispanic, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged, and limited English Proficient students. We get scores back in many categories, however we did not meet the benchmark in the Hispanic subgroup according to the No Child Left Behind mandate. All other subgroups met or exceeded these benchmarks. Because of not meeting in this one specific subgroup, we are required by law to send out the letters offering public school choice. This is an option that they may wish to choose, however it is not a requirement. If you choose not to transfer your child, you may be interested in the after school tutoring program. Both options are on the application. If you would like to take advantage of either, please complete the form and return it to the DeKalb County Board of Education. We want you to understand that Northside and Smithville Elementary are both great schools with great teachers."

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K to 6th grade, said that while letters were sent to all parents of children attending Smithville Elementary and Northside Elementary concerning a transfer to Choice School (DeKalb West), if the numbers of students planning to make the move should exceed the west school's capacity, priority for first choice will be given to the lowest-achieving students from low-income families. "Because of the limited capacity that we have at DeKalb West School, we've set guidelines on students being able to transfer. There's certain guidelines that we have to follow to transfer students."

Since Northside and Smithville Elementary must meet achievement goals for two straight years before no longer being identified as "high priority schools", Burklow said students planning to transfer to DeKalb West this year will be given the same opportunity next year. "It's for the remainder of this school year, however when a school does move into school improvement, it is a two year cycle so when we meet those benchmark goals for next year, those children will still have an option of transferring to DeKalb West School, just simply because of the two year cycle that we will be locked into."

Burklow added that parents planning to take advantage of this may provide transportation of their children to DeKalb West or the school system will provide it.

So far, Burklow said most parents who have responded have indicated a desire for the after school tutoring program, rather than transferring their children to DeKalb West.

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