published Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Hamilton County: Transfers double out of low-performing schools

A file photo of the sign for Brainerd High School on North Moore Road. Brainerd lost 118 students to Ooltewah High School and 12 to Sale Creek as more Hamilton County students are transferring out of low-performing schools.
A file photo of the sign for Brainerd High School on North Moore Road. Brainerd lost 118 students to Ooltewah High School and 12 to Sale Creek as more Hamilton County students are transferring out of low-performing schools.
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NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND TRANSFERS

Elementary Schools

Clifton Hills Elementary: 7 to Alpine Crest Elementary, 2 to Falling Water Elementary

Calvin Donaldson Elementary: 10 to Lookout Mountain Elementary, 6 to Lookout Valley Elementary

Eastside Elementary: 15 to Soddy Elementary, 13 to Allen Elementary

Hillcrest Elementary: 13 to Snowhill Elementary

Orchard Knob Elementary: 2 to Allen Elementary, 2 to Daisy Elementary

Rivermont Elementary: 1 to Falling Water Elementary, 1 to Soddy Elementary

Woodmore Elementary: 40 to Ooltewah Elementary, 7 to Snowhill Elementary

Middle Schools

Dalewood Middle: 22 to Loftis Middle, 3 to Soddy-Daisy Middle

East Lake Academy: 8 to Brown Middle, 13 to East Hamilton Middle/High

East Ridge Middle: 7 to Ooltewah Middle, 14 to Signal Mountain Middle/High

Lookout Valley Middle: 1 to East Hamilton Middle/High

Orchard Knob Middle: 57 to Hunter Middle, 21 to Ooltewah Middle

Tyner Middle Academy: 4 to Hixson Middle, 1 to Red Bank Middle

High Schools

Brainerd High: 118 to Ooltewah High, 12 to Sale Creek High

Howard School of Academics and Technology: 12 to Sale Creek High, 47 to Signal Mountain Middle/High

Red Bank High: 10 to Hixson High, 4 to Sale Creek High

Soddy-Daisy High: 1 to Hixson High

The number of Hamilton County students transferring out of low-performing schools has more than doubled over last year.

Records provided by the Hamilton County Department of Education show that 474 students chose to transfer out of 17 "high-priority" schools, which failed to meet performance benchmarks, into better-performing ones this spring. Principals say losing kids to other schools is never positive, though many students often return to their original schools.

Children who attend the lowest-performing schools -- measured by state tests -- are given the option of transferring under the No Child Left Behind Act. Last year 198 students elected to take an NCLB transfer, and only 27 made a change in 2009.

While Hamilton County's numbers are rising, they're nowhere close to the number of students eligible for transfers. The 17 schools identified as high priority represent thousands of transfer-eligible students.

Some of the biggest departures occurred this year at:

* Brainerd High, where 118 students left for Ooltewah High, with 12 more now going to Sale Creek.

* Orchard Knob Middle, where 57 students left for Hunter Middle, while 21 headed for Ooltewah Middle.

* Woodmore Elementary, which lost 40 students to Ooltewah Elementary, while seven others moved to Snowhill Elementary.

But some schools lost only a few students each, including:

* Rivermont Elementary, which lost one student to Falling Water Elementary and another to Soddy Elementary.

* Clifton Hills Elementary, which lost seven students to Apline Crest Elementary, and another two to Falling Water.

* Soddy-Daisy High School, where one student left for Hixson High School.

A school is considered high-priority if does not make "adequate yearly progress" 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.

Transferring student can't go to just any school; the low-performing schools are matched with other schools that will accept its transfers.

Transporting transfers

It's those smaller numbers of transfers that can create a logistical nightmare for the school system, said Ben Coulter, transportation supervisor for the Hamilton County Department of Education.

The district combines bus routes instead of transporting only one or two kids at a time.

But because some of the school pairings are so far apart, transferring students can end up sitting on a bus for several hours a day, Coulter said. State law requires that bus routes be no longer than an hour and a half each way. Some of the transfer routes are close to that.

"One that goes to Sale Creek is getting close to an hour and a half," he said. "But it's only got 11 kids on it, so we can't justify another bus."

Because transfer transportation is paid for by federal money, the school system can't use any of its 15 designated transfer buses for any other purpose, unless it coughs up its own cash, Coulter said.

"We don't touch them unless we absolutely have to," he said.

Lucile Phillips, director of federal programs for Hamilton County Schools, said the school system expects to spend about $830,000 this year to transport transfer students across the county.

Not all transfer

FAST FACT

Across the state, 57,254 students were eligible for school transfers in 2008-09, though only 2,465 -- only about 4 percent -- actually transferred. In the same year, 154,615 of the nation's 672,101 students, or about 23 percent, elected to transfer.

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Nearly 19 percent of students at Orchard Knob Middle -- 78 in all -- transferred this year, leaving the school with a total enrollment of 337. But new Principal Crystal Sorrells said more than 40 other students who were approved for transfers decided instead to stay at Orchard Knob. It's a hopeful sign that some are willing to give her turnaround efforts a shot, she said.

"We've gotten several back," Sorrells said. "From what they have heard in the neighborhood and what they have heard in the media, they are willing to give me a chance."

Still, she realizes that the school has had a perception problem for years.

"I hope those numbers will change," she said. "But regardless of the reality, perception is real for people."

Paul Smith can relate.

Executive principal at the Howard School of Academics and Technology, Smith said he's in the midst of a public relations campaign to help people learn about the improvement Howard has made in recent years.

"Howard today is not the same as it was five years ago," he said.

There, too, many of the transfers eventually come back to Howard, Smith said. He said most of the kids who chose to leave were freshmen, meaning they never gave the school a chance. The school lost 59 students to Sale Creek High and Signal Mountain Middle/High School this year.

"It's not that they're put off by Howard," he said. "They just choose to not ever come to Howard."

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about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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SavartiTN said...

It will be interesting to see whether or not Ooltewah High School will maintain it's performance standard after such a large transfer from a poorly performing school.

I don't understand why the school system doesn't work on boosting performance at Brainerd, Tyner, and East Ridge which could go a long way in reducing the overcrowding at East Hamilton or the transportation cost of sending these students to schools outside of their community. It is absurd to think of sending 47 students from Howard up and down that mountain every day!

September 7, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.
Astropig said...

I think that this is great. These kids have escaped the bad schools that held them back. This is the very message that we need to send to the education establishment that they will understand : Shape up or the federal $ugar walks out the door.

Before NCLB ,these kids were prisoners on the education plantation.Now they have a better chance to reach their potential.

September 7, 2011 at 5:42 p.m.
Veritas said...

There was a time when Brainerd High School was very desirable, students transfered TO Brainerd. In those days it was home of the Brainerd Rebels, not the Panthers. That says it all and I'm not just whistling Dixie!

September 7, 2011 at 6:03 p.m.
GreenKepi said...

O'yeah...how great it was in the 1960's when Brainerd was "Brainerd"! Oh, me...those days are long gone (as Veritas stated)....

September 7, 2011 at 6:51 p.m.
01centare said...

This is what they want these students to do. Transfer from these schools so they can shut them down. Then they will reopen them and make them state of the art schools where only a very select group will be allowed to attend. Those other schools aren't any better than those problem schools. They just have a better repore' and friendship with the parents and students. Heck! Most are neighbors, friends and relatives. With all that going for them, there's no way for the students to fail.

September 7, 2011 at 7:56 p.m.
01centare said...

Astropig said... I think that this is great. These kids have escaped the bad schools that held them back

And what do you think happens to those transferring students when those schools don't want them there? They set them up to fail, get suspended and expelled. The hostility against those students is so great you could cut it with a knife. That's why so many end up transferring back to the schools they left.

September 7, 2011 at 8:03 p.m.
Astropig said...

"And what do you think happens to those transferring students when those schools don't want them there? They set them up to fail, get suspended and expelled. The hostility against those students is so great you could cut it with a knife."

Sounds like integration of schools back in the 60's. The brave students that stuck with it and stood up for themselves and their futures are civic leaders today.This is absolutely no different.The only difference now is that instead of some racist governor standing in the schoolhouse door,its probably a union leader principal or teacher.

September 7, 2011 at 9:43 p.m.
funnyjenn said...

Both my children are zoned for Howard and both go to sale creek I just feel that they have more of a chance to succeed there. If they did go I dont feel the opportunties would have been offered

September 7, 2011 at 9:58 p.m.
Astropig said...

"Both my children are zoned for Howard and both go to sale creek I just feel that they have more of a chance to succeed there. If they did go I dont feel the opportunties would have been offered"

If your kids are reading this 30 years in the future in the archives- You mom (or dad) really loved you enough to see you succeed.

September 7, 2011 at 10:11 p.m.
jxlanger said...

Transferring bad performers out of inner city schools into better performing schools in the county is simply misguided actions by the government. This solves nothing and creates a host of problems namely those of logistics/cost and behavior. The inner city kids don't know how to act civilized,bottom line. I feel for the ones that do want to get out of the ghetto and do better,but so many of them are simply bringing trouble with them, like it or not.

September 7, 2011 at 11:50 p.m.
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