published Friday, January 21st, 2011

Hamilton County forced to offer school transfers for thousands

by Kelli Gauthier
  • photo
    A bus driver prepares to pull out of the parking lot at Ooltewah Middle School after picking up students.
    Staff File Photo

More than 2,000 Hamilton County students who attend high-priority schools now are eligible to switch to another school halfway through the year.

Although the Tennessee Department of Education asked for a federal waiver so school districts wouldn't have to offer transfers, the waiver was denied.

"We had pretty much thought it was a done deal," said Sheryl Randolph, Hamilton County's director of student services.

State Education Department spokeswoman Amanda Maynord Anderson, said the U.S. Department of Education told state officials they denied the waiver because they wanted to stay consistent and had denied similar requests by other states.

Tennessee school districts normally send letters to parents of all students attending schools on the state's high-priority list early in the fall, after Adequate Yearly Progress results that determine which schools are on the list are released in August.

In order for a school to be considered "high-priority," it must fail to achieve its performance benchmarks, or "make AYP," in any one category for two years in a row. Schools on the high-priority list must make AYP two years in a row to return to good standing.

But this time around, the AYP list was released only two weeks ago. In addition to the 10 Hamilton County schools already eligible for transfers, the new AYP results added seven more: Soddy-Daisy High, Dalewood Middle, East Lake Academy, Hillcrest Elementary, Orchard Knob Elementary, Rivermont Elementary and Tyner Middle Academy.

County officials today will send letters to parents of students at all 16 schools on the list, Randolph said.

Parents will have until Feb. 7 to let the district know whether they want their children to transfer to designated schools. By Feb. 14, families should know whether their application was accepted, and students will start at their new schools the week of Feb. 21.

Randolph said she hopes most eligible parents will keep their children at their current schools, rather than have them switch with only 11 weeks left in the school year.

"I would hope parents would think through what a transfer would do at this time of year," she said. "The problem is, the classes [a student] wants to take may not be available; the pace at different schools may be different. It may look like a good deal, but timing is everything."

Crystal Henderson said she and her husband, Larry, have been debating whether to have their four children leave Hillcrest Elementary and switch to one of its paired schools: Snow Hill or Birchwood.

Henderson called the decision "a Catch-22," and said she and her husband haven't yet made their decision.

"Hillcrest has done such a great job with our children ... but on the same token, I do want to give my kids every opportunity that's available to them. But I feel like they can get that at Hillcrest. I'm really torn, I really am," she said.

A student who switches to a paired school must stay through the end of the school year. Randolph said of 189 students who transferred in August, about 50 have asked to go back to their home schools.

"It just shows you that what sounded good right now may not be the best option," she said.

Test scores of students who enroll in a school after the 20th day of classes do not count for or against that school's standardized test scores, said Hamilton County Schools spokeswoman Danielle Clark.

Contact Kelli Gauthier at or 423 757-6249.

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Soddy Daisy High: Hixson High or Ooltewah High

Dalewood Middle: Loftis Middle or Soddy-Daisy Middle

East Lake Academy: Brown Middle (zoned students) or East Hamilton Middle (zoned students)*

Tyner Middle Academy: Red Bank Middle (zoned students) or Hixson Middle (zoned students)

Orchard Knob Elementary: Daisy Elementary or Allen Elementary

Hillcrest Elementary: Snow Hill Elementary or Birchwood Elementary

Rivermont Elementary: Falling Water Elementary or Soddy Elementary

* If magnet students not zoned for the school choose to leave, they must return to their home school.

Source: Hamilton County Schools


Clifton Hills Elementary: 4 to Falling Water Elementary

Calvin Donaldson Elementary: 7 to Lookout Mountain Elementary; 4 to Lookout Valley Elementary

East Ridge Middle: 9 to Ooltewah Middle; 11 to Signal Mountain Middle

Howard School of Academics and Technology: 13 to Sale Creek High; 34 to Signal Mountain High

Lookout Valley High: 0 to Hixson High

Lookout Valley Middle: 1 to East Hamilton Middle; 1 to Hixson Middle

Orchard Knob Middle: 78 to Hunter Middle; 21 Ooltewah Middle

Red Bank High: 3 to Sale Creek High; 3 to Hixson High

Source: Hamilton County Schools

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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dendod said...

The education system in Hamilton County is so bad thanks to people like Sheryl "closed door meetings" Randolph and Dr. "Can't teach a dog to fetch a stick" Scales that most Junior High students can't even read the gang signs on their grade level. Wake up parents and get these people a one way flight out of here and get some people with some progressive and GOOD ideas. You pay enough. Get your monies worth.

January 21, 2011 at 7:24 a.m.
cartman said...

I put my son through the stress of transferring and it isn't worth it. Stay where you are! There's good and bad in every school. Being on this list is an unjust label not only stamped on our schools, but the faculty and children as well. This is another example of the federal government doing a lousy job with a good idea that it shouldn't be micro-managing!

January 21, 2011 at 7:24 a.m.
dendod said...

If Sheryl "closed door meetings" Randolph thinks it's a good idea to stay where you are then I would suggest transferring as fast as you possibly can. The people running the main office of the school system have such a record of failure. If you want to see some of their best work, look up Zachery Deal vs. Hamilton County Board of education. The school board wasted over $1,000,000 fighting to deprive an autistic boy of what the federal government said he was due. The appellate Judge who wrote the final decision called Hamilton County School Representatives everything but honest and fair. Shame on Hamilton County School System. Wake up parents. Show Dr. "Can't teach a dog to fetch a stick" the door.

January 21, 2011 at 7:58 a.m.
ibshame said...

The education of a child should start at home. However, that's not always the case for every child. Some children don't come from a home where getting a good, sound education is stressed by the parents. The schools then have to take the place of the parent and try to give a child what they don't get at home. It's overwhelming at times for school officials but they do the best they can with what they have. When the test scores hit the papers, everyone looks for someone to blame. It's just not that simple. Some parents shouldn't be parents and some teachers shouldn't be teachers. Instead of looking for someone to blame, why not look for solutions? Firing incompetant teachers is the right thing to do but every school on the "High Priority" list is not full of incompetant teachers. Transferring students to other schools if the school is failing is the right thing to do for the students. However, if the parents don't provide any more support at the new school then they did at the "HP" school then the child will still face the same challenges. Finding solutions is alot harder than placing blame.

January 21, 2011 at 10:49 a.m.
Oz said...

Blame teachers..... That's the name of the game.

We have children from single parent homes and the parent is too tired to assist a child with homework in the evening. We have parents that are too lazy to help a child with homework. Plus we have parents that care more about sports than education. They can spend five nights a week watching a child practice sports but they cannot spend five minutes with a child on homework. When do parents take some responsibility? No child is going to get all in a school day. It is impossible.

The state mandated curriculum does not allow teachers to spend unlimited time on a subject until everyone gets it. Children must spend time on homework or they never will succeed. The state keeps adding standards on top of standards that were never mastered in the first place. The system is broke. It is not all about teachers. Do we have poor teachers? Yes and they quietly get moved around from school to school every few years because the school system cannot get rid of them. Thanks to the union.

Teachers can only do so much. Many are constantly interrupted by children with no self discipline basic skills. They have one or two children constantly interrupting the class and they are taking away from valuable instruction time. I placed my own children in private school in the 80's because of this problem. Teachers in a private school spends much more time on actual instruction. We still spent 3 or 4 hours every evening assisting them with homework and making sure it was completed. They played sports but the emphasis was on education.

January 21, 2011 at 10:50 a.m.
dave said...

The first problem with our school system is they have tried fixing the problems by throwing money at them. Replacing schools that needed repairs with new ones but not addressing the basic conditions that led to poor performance. I agree that much of the school system problems begins in the home. If the kids are not disciplined correctly and shown BY EXAMPLE that study and hard work pays off then the chaos that results is to be expected. If a the home environment is such that NO emphasis is placed on doing well and getting ahead then given the current influence of gangs, drugs and violence cannot be avoided. The teachers need support but more money is not the answer. Perhaps we should be policing the parents in their child rearing duties.

January 21, 2011 at 11:58 a.m.
clinthardwood said...

I'd give years of pay bonuses to be able to control my class without whining from the PC "reformer" policy wonks and those overgrown children who call themselves parents. Would be nice if this district enforced the attendance laws, too, which won't happen, since the system holds everybody but parents accountable.

January 21, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.
Oz said...

I have a friend that teaches. She says parents have more excuses than their kids for not turning in homework assignments. The dog has hemorrhoids and we were up all night giving him an epsom salts bath. Can we have one more day on the homework assignment?

January 21, 2011 at 4:34 p.m.
champ1 said...

I've floated this idea and I wonder what some of you may think about it. What if we tied the earned income credit and child income credit to school performance? I'll guarantee you that the grades of these kids would improve, even if their parents had to sit in class with them to be sure that they are getting the work done. We shouldn't be paying these parents to bring worthless children into the world. If you're gonna be apart of our society, you need to earn your way.

January 21, 2011 at 5:43 p.m.
northchatt73 said...

This is great! Especially where dendod said we need some people with progressive ideas. I am in no way defending the current regime, but it is the progressive ideas that have made our schools nothing more than diploma mills. Even universities are lowering their standards to keep the students for tuition reasons.
Many of your kids attend schools that have progressively lowered their standards to make the mark for years. The chickens will come home to roost- bad economy, more need for social programs, higher crime rates, higher taxes (more waste)to fix the social ills. The very progressive ideas are cloaked in catchy phrases but at the core they are easily exposed. Many schools now allow students to continually submit assignments until they achieve a passing score. For anyone that cares to look into it it is not presented as a bad concept- keep at it until you master it. In the application of it the student decides somewhere near the end of a grading period that it is time to complete several weeks worth of assignments so they can pass, not learn- pass. The teacher that many spend their time criticizing now suddenly hears from the absentee parent that has been unreachable. The administrators email the deplorable teacher for not providing enough opportunities and the teacher one way or another buckles under the pressure.
The student and parent has then been given every incentive to continue the pattern, the administrator is lauded for excellent achievement because of the excellent pass / fail rate or graduation numbers, and society loses because we spend more money to house an inmate for a year than we do to educate a child.
You get what you pay for and you reap what you sew. We will continually lag behind other industrialized nations because we have a warped sense of reality. You can fire Scales, you can vote out the school board, but you cannot undo the idiocy contained within basic principles that violate basic human tendencies. Some kids will seek to excel because of an inherent drive within themselves, others will begrudgingly do what has to be done for fear of consequences, and some will simply lower themselves to every low expectation you give them.

January 21, 2011 at 8:48 p.m.
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