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450 students ask to transfer to new schools

COVINGTON - Officials at the Newton County School System have processed 450 applications from parents of current students who requested to transfer from one of three schools on the state's Needs Improvement list to another school in the county.

According to a curriculum report presented by Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for curriculum for NCSS, at least 450 students from their assigned home schools of Middle Ridge and Porterdale elementary schools and Clements Middle School will transfer to another school of their choice.

In early July, after receiving the annual Adequate Yearly Progress results, administrators at those three schools notified parents that because the schools were on the state's Needs Improvement list - part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act - the schools must continue to offer an alternate choice for students this school year.

According to initial results from the state Department of Education, Clements Middle School did not meet AYP for the sixth consecutive year, causing it to keep its Needs Improvement status.

Middle Ridge Elementary School also did not meet AYP for the 2007-08 school year and, therefore, will remain on the state list even though it met AYP last school year; it must meet AYP for at least two years in a row to be removed from the list.

Porterdale Elementary School met AYP for this past school year but must continue to offer school choice since it did not meet it for the 2006-07 school year and was on the list.

The curriculum report shows that 335 students requested to be transferred from Clements Middle - 168 to Veterans Memorial and 167 to Cousins; 66 from Porterdale Elementary - 20 to Ficquett and 46 to Livingston; and 49 from Middle Ridge Elementary - 26 to East Newton and 23 to Heard-Mixon.

These numbers have increased from 417 that were reported by the school system July 29.

The deadline for students at those schools to apply for a transfer school was July 25, so no other students who are enrolled in the district at those three schools will be allowed to transfer to another school this year as a result of school choice.

Students who move into the district later in the school year and are assigned to one of the three schools on the Needs Improvement list still will have a choice.

Because of this and the fact that Hayden said "parents do sometimes decide to remain in their home school" after requesting transfer, this number is not yet final.

Sherri Viniard, director of public relations for NCSS, said school system officials will look at numbers again this week to see if any more transfer applications were processed.

Last school year, NCSS reported that 430 students had transferred as of Aug. 13, 2007.

During Tuesday night's work session, Newton County School Board members questioned Hayden on whether or not the school system tracks what type of students transfer from their assigned schools.

Board Chairman Almond Turner said if the high achieving students are the ones transferring from the schools, then the school meeting AYP the next school year seems "virtually impossible."

Hayden said the state only requires the school system to notify parents of the choice and provide the transfers.

She said she does track students who transfer to see if they pass, but she had no data on that.

She added that she feels every child can learn given the opportunity and feels confident the schools can meet AYP in the future.

The board also requested school improvement plans for the schools on the Needs Improvement list, but Hayden said those are not available yet and that she plans to make a report to the board every couple of months about those plans.