The Hunter Report

School Choice Giving Parents Options

 

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Letter to parents of Ft. Loudon Middle School.

Guest Commentary By: Wendy Baustian

Printed by permission:  http://loudoncountyschoolsolutions.blogspot.com/

 

Parents have until Friday August 29, 2008 to submit the school choice request form and submit it back to the Loudon County Schools Central office.

 

On August 7, 2008, the Loudon County Board of Education sent a letter home to the parents of Greenback School and Fort Loudoun Middle School advising them that their school has been identified by the Tennessee Department of Education as a “High Priority” schools in Improvement 1 of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Greenback was placed on school Improvement 1 status due to graduation rates falling below state and federal goals (89%). Greenback graduation rate for 2005-2006 is 86.5%, 2006-2007-89.2%.

Fort Loudoun Middle school was placed on school Improvement 1 status due to falling below state and federal goals in math for 2 years in a row.

Because both of these schools have been identified as a Title 1 high priority schools, children at these schools are eligible to transfer to another public school in the district:
Greenback students will have the choice of attending North Middle School (5-8), Philadelphia Elementary (K-8), Highland Park Elementary (K-4) and Loudon High School (9-12).
Fort Loudoun choices consist of North Middle School (5-8) or Philadelphia Elementary (K-8).

If you choose to transfer, the following guidelines apply:

-The district will provide or pay for transportation to and from your child’s Choice School as long as the school is a high priority school identified for improvement. Schools must achieve goals for two straight years before it will no longer be considered to be a high priority school. (This means that these school will automatically still be retained as high priority schools for the 2009-2010 school year.)


-Your child will be allowed to remain at the new school until he/she completes the highest grade. (It is likely that transportation costs will only be covered during the years the school is considered to be high priority.)

 

-If funds are not available for all students to be transported, priority for transportation will be given to low-income students. (Our current budget has a line item allowance for $25,000 for student transportation)

 

-If a request for a Choice school exceeds that school’s capacity, priority for first choice will be given to low-income students.

The U.S. Department of Education has produced a informational booklet, “Giving Parent Options: Strategies For Informing Parent and Implementing Public School Choice and Supplemental Education Services Under No Child Left Behind”. I would encourage all parents to obtain a copy of this booklet and read through it carefully regarding the rights of your child’s education. I will highlight a few of the main points of the booklet.

The Department of Education (DOE) stresses the need for making parents informed of the fundamental issues surrounding school choice and Supplemental Education Services (SES). Districts are encouraged to assess their parent notification and outreach capabilities and needs and then proceed with a detailed plan for implementing it. This includes providing the information in a simple context free from legal jargon and available in multiple languages to ensure readability.

One key problem identified by the DOE is the need for multiple forms of communication with parents. “Districts that engage in multi-faceted, comprehensive parent outreach campaigns are generally more successful in informing parents and the community about public school choice and SES.” Simply sending a notice home in the backpack or a single letter mailed home often times results in unread letters. The DOE suggests distributing notices through broader means such as: district newsletters, school websites, public access TV, automated phone messages (we have Parent Link in Loudon County), advertisements in local print as well as flyers, brochures and outreach programs with the PTO’s, parent advisory groups and other local school support organizations. A master calendar is the suggested as a way to coordinate all School Choice and SES events.

We hope our administration is working on ways to implement these strategies for improved communication which will only serve to benefit the children. In fact, under No Child Left Behind, districts are required to notify parents of the eligible students of their public choice options “no later than by the beginning of the school year” which is sometimes difficult since AYP results are often times not released until shortly before school starts. This makes it difficult for parents to make informed decisions in a timely manner without further disrupting their children’s progress.

On a personal note, this program greatly affects my family, as my child’s neighborhood school will be Fort Loudoun Middle school. Her favorite subject is math. It takes 2 years to get on the NCLB list and it takes 2 years to get off the list, which means they will still be on the list next year. I am hoping, that our Board of Education will make every possible effort to ensure that the parents are fully educated on the School Choice and SES program and not just the parents who have children currently affected, but those who will be affected in the near future. I look forward to doing my part as a parent, PTO president and a community volunteer to ensure that our parents and children receive the education that we deserve.

 

Web Link to handbook: Giving Parents Options: Strategies for Informing Parents and Implementing Public School Choice And Supplemental Educational Services Under No Child Left Behind September 2007

http://www.ed.gov/print/admins/comm/choice/options/report.html

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08-17-08