Originally created 09/09/06

Transfer requests rise for some



ATLANTA - Some school systems in Georgia are seeing more parents requesting to transfer their child to a higher-performing school under the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

Educators blamed the increase on several factors, from parents becoming more familiar with their options when a child attends a low-performing school to school systems making transfer applications more accessible.

Families with children at schools on the national "needs improvement" list can move their child to better scoring schools. The list contains schools that fail to meet federal standards two years in a row in a particular subject area.

Once on the list, the schools must meet federal standards for two years before they are removed. In the meantime, they must offer the transfer option, and their struggling pupils also must be offered extra tutoring.

In the 2005-06 academic year, 99 schools in Georgia fell off the "needs improvement" list, reducing the number statewide to 310 schools, the lowest since the law took effect in 2002. Still, fewer Georgia schools met federal standards under No Child Left Behind compared with the previous year, which means the list could grow next year if those schools do not improve.

About 79 percent of Georgia schools met the federal standards last year, down from about 82 percent in 2004-05. State officials blamed the drop on tougher testing requirements for reading, English and math.

At the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools system, the number of parents requesting transfers jumped by nearly 70 percent this year over last, from 382 to 647.

Last year, every middle school in the system was on the "needs improvement" list, which meant there were no higher performing schools to transfer children to. This year, two middle schools came off the list, and 248 families requested their children be transferred to those schools, said Rita Butler, the system's senior director for compensatory programs.

That doesn't necessarily mean all those children will transfer, because sometimes parents decide not to follow through with moving their child. Ms. Butler said the system included transfer applications in the letters sent to parents notifying them that the option was available, where in past years parents had to go to their child's school to get the form.

"We were trying to get everybody in place before school started," Ms. Butler said.

In suburban Atlanta's Cobb County, the school system has seen a steady increase in transfer requests. This year, 573 families requested to move their child, up from three requests in 2002-03.

Jill Kalina, Cobb County's chief school leadership officer, said this year pupils wanting to transfer could start the school year at their new school, where in the past they had to attend the old school for as long as a month before moving. The system also had more high-performing schools this year that were close to "needs improvement" schools, so it was more convenient for parents to transfer their children.