published Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

The rap on ending school transfers in Hamilton County

Should student transfers from struggling schools be eliminated?

County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith's proposal to eliminate student transfers from majority black schools to majority white schools is likely to alarm proponents of racial equity in education, and for good reason. Given this county's racially tainted past, it clearly would be a challenge for Smith to show that there is a better immediate option for minority students who want to escape schools where average student achievement levels remain well below those in the best white-majority schools.

Blatant racism was at the core of opposition just 15 years ago to a merger of the city and county school systems. The latter had most of the better white-majority schools where student achievement was relatively high. The city school system had virtually all of the poorer urban black-majority schools where student achievement lagged. The minority-to-majority transfer program, along with magnet school options, have helped overcome the idea that minority students can be left to languish in neglected schools.

There has been substantial focus on improving student performance in urban minority schools since the school merger, to be sure. Yet overall achievement levels in predominantly black urban schools have not have improved as much as reform advocates would like. The transfer program has eased concern among some parents by providing achievement-oriented students a handy lifeline for a better education.

Coming just days after Tennessee received a waiver of the No Child Left Behind rules that mandated the transfer program, the timing of Smith's proposal could seem suspiciously like a rush to return to the bad old days of racist neglect. Heightening that fear is the fact that Smith was installed as superintendent last year by the regressive faction of the school board and its County Commission allies, who succeeded after long battles in ousting the merged school system's two progressive superintendents -- Jesse Register and his successor, Jim Scales. Some of these board members continue to oppose the two programs that have done the most to overcome racial disparities.

Though Smith proposes to phase in elimination of minority-to-majority school transfers to let affected students finish the highest grade level at the schools they currently attend, he seems mainly interested in ending the program to save the $830,000 that the system now spends to bus some 500 transfer students from 17 schools to the paired out-of-zone, white-majority schools they have chosen to attend.

The busing cost is admittedly expensive for the number of students who take advantage of the transfer option. But the crucial question is whether the school system would use that money, and more, to keep promoting higher student achievement levels in the schools that current transfer students have chosen to leave.

If Smith and his school board allies agree to eliminate the transfer program, they should commit to plow the system's savings, and more, back into the schools at the bottom rungs of achievement scores. They also ought to beef up pre-school and kindergarten programs, and efforts to help parents of students in these schools improve their skills in teaching at home.

It could be argued that schools would improve by ending the outflow of some its best students and most motivated parents. Retaining their attendance and the interest of their families could help elevate their schools. But that will happen only if transfer students and families see both a rising commitment and near-term improvement in their schools' learning environment. Ending the transfer program without such investment in effort and resources would confirm the fear of a return to racist neglect.

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jjmez said...

TFP, a suggestion: When you have a poll along with an article you need to have a link button back to the article so the poll takers want have to go all the way to the top and search for the aticle again. Just a suggestion.

February 21, 2012 at 8:57 a.m.
jjmez said...

Minority/Majority transfers were taking place long before the no-child-left-behind law. Those transfers were in place as far back as the 1980s and even'70s. Where a child could transfer from a majority white or black school to a majority black or white school.

February 21, 2012 at 9 a.m.
ShaneTalley said...

Just my opinion!! It would seem to me that with $830,000 X 2 or 3 years, the schools could buy enough computers (base models)for the students desk and install in the class rooms across the city and county with some decent school material and link the schools together. MANY TEACHERS GET THEIR DEGREES THIS WAY!!!! Major colleges and universities are providing accredited degrees this way daily. What cant be baught or forced is parents responsibility to step up and make their kids do homework at home and keep them off the streets. (white,black,green, yellow,rich or poor and race dont matter)It is not the teachers place to raise the children but to provide an opportunity at education in the classroom with the parents helping them at home as well. So my point here is no matter how you waste or spend money on these transfers, the kids are put at risk by all of the transporting back and forth and the parents are trying to find after school care for the odd schedules of the transporting(costly as well). This also invites segratgation and negative diversity in our community (sadley there is plenty who like the tension and make a living from it) They should find a new job or life. This is 2012. Time to move ahead!!!!! This would provide a level playing field for all students of all races,cultures and everything else in between.

Im sure the faculty is all linked together by computers using the same systems when they want to shop or play the market during school hours or work on collective bargaining with their unions or even politic for a higher position for their personal gains.

Did I mention the jobs this would create?install?maintain? Savings in school insurance? Risk to the kids on the transport buses?

This is just a thought.

All comments are welcome towards me. Converations builds foundations and new ideas whether we agree or not.

February 21, 2012 at 9:38 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

A few weeks ago, before this topic became newsworthy, I overheard two women in my community discussing transfers like these. Their primary interest was to get their kids away from gang activity in their designated school. That's why they looked to the transfer programs for help.

I have not heard anyone, besides those mothers, discuss student safety from violence as being a legitimate reason for supporting these transfer programs.

I do not suspect for one moment that anyone has asked black female mothers with children in school what they think about this transfer program. I have not seen one poor working mother interviewed on television, or in newspaper articles, about this matter.

I believe the chief proponents of these transfer programs will be mothers with kids who need to get away from negative social influences in schools.

Those with an interest in destroying or ending these programs have probably not given a thought to how important it is to have teenagers reorganized in a way that supports a reduction in school violence.

To those who recognize that effect of transportation programs like these, these transfers are an important procedure. They are not a benefit or waste of money to be stopped.

The very idea that some politicians want to stop these transfers in the name of economizing on transportation goes to show just how out of touch some of our leaders are with the driving concerns of parents of students in our area.

Instead of taking care of kids in school, we see that the main focus of politicians is on getting another million dollars out of the budget somehow. My guess is that million, like many other dollars targeted by local politicos in the past two years, will go to bribes, corruption and payoffs.

See and hear what the moms have to say. They have the biggest stake in this transfer situation.

Let the moms decide. And, no, Rhonda, they are not all rich enough to pay for it. They cannot all drive their kids to school across the county every day.

School bussing is a realistic answer to a difficult problem. It's a problem we are lucky to solve with something as simple as a ride on a school bus.

Those poorer mothers who need their kids transported to better school conditions are the ones who will care and gain the most from good public policy decisions about student transportation in our area. Listen to them. Maybe ask their opinion for a change.

February 21, 2012 at 6:02 p.m.
jjmez said...

@"I believe the chief proponents of these transfer programs will be mothers with kids who need to get away from negative social influences in schools."

And you honestly don't believe there are negative influences going on at those schools these students transfer too? How naive? One that took place last year in particular comes to mind. But the better school staff downplayed the incident.

One of the many things that's been disappointing throughout the years about the black community has been their public hounding and disparaging remarks they've made about their own youth. This in turn gave the individuals who didn't want them at those better schools in the first place all the ammunition they needed to keep them out. After hearing such negative comments from their own, would anyone want these inner city kids near their children?
There's really nothing much taking place at inner schools than is taking place at these better better schools. The schools just do more to protect their image and their students. They don't want that negative image to come back and haunt them or their students years down the road. It's unfortunate that inner city schools overplay issues and problems, whereas the better schools do more to cover up their problems.

February 21, 2012 at 6:28 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Sometimes a fresh start at a new place is better than the lack of hope at the old. It's in maintaining an aspect of our leadership in the school system that puts the interests of the children first that will show us the right way to do business in school. We should continue to maintain these programs because they probably are conserving good aspects of our student community as a whole.

It's not with school image or budget cuts that the answer lies. We have been paying out this money, probably for decades, for good reasons. Suddenly stopping a policy that has been built up over the years of making many smaller, individual-student based decisions, is not a good idea.

We decided in favor of bussing these kids, as individuals, for a reason. Each reason was probably as individual as the student on the bus.

As soon as someone wants a million dollars from a budget, our politicos suddenly forget what that reason was.

Our school board and school system decisions should be about taking care of these kids. We don't see local leaders trying to do a good job of picking out a textbook. Instead, they're trying to shut down the public library and halt medical programs for disabled kids. It's all in the name of getting more money for themselves while looking like they are going to save taxes for the public.

This is from the same school system politicians whose most famous statement in the past few years has been, "Slaves learned to read."

Our politicians are not focusing on what's important for the kids. They're trying to cut dollars to use those kids as a political tool.

Focus on the kids. They are on those buses for a reason. They're not there by accident or for luxury. They are there to get to school like everyone else.

If we can get some of our kids to school, like everyone else, and get those problems solved several hundred times a day, every day of the school year, for only a million dollars in annual transportation costs: that's a bargain.

Ask mom why her son or daughter is on the bus. It won't be because she wants you to pay for something unnecessary. The kids are on the bus because mom needs us to get those kids to school.

February 21, 2012 at 6:38 p.m.
ShaneTalley said...

I agree with amny things you have stated, BUT!! 328ebsite "If we can get some of our kids to school, like everyone else, and get those problems solved several hundred times a day, every day of the school year, for only a million dollars in annual transportation costs: that's a bargain."

This seems to be a settlement for cause and that is unacceptable by all means. I have small children in the school system here and refuse settlement of a process("a bargain"). These people were put into office to support our kids and create a enviroment for them to learn. What happens when a bus full of these kids has an really bad accident? Now whos the blame goto? there is no cost value for a lost child. All children are pricless. I pay enough taxes (along with everyone else) that these kids should have good education tools and learning enviroment next to their home without having to bus them all over town. Maybe there should be some pay cuts at the top,look at their homes and where their kids got to school (public vs private, pension plans etc. Im sure many would fix this issue for half the price just to get rid of the high salaried crooks and help the kids and the communities.

February 21, 2012 at 7:55 p.m.
01centare said...

The problems with inner city schools date back more than three or four decades. They became the dumping ground for bad teachers the system couldn't get rid of because of tenure. The problems were never the childre, regardless of how dire their background. Neither was the problem due to single parenting. Even inner city parents were active in their children's schooling until they were run off.

February 21, 2012 at 9:44 p.m.
trburrows said...

no body here understands. We moved out of the city to get away from all this. We do not want and will not allow you in the city to bus/ship your unsolvable problems to us. Get it?

February 21, 2012 at 11:08 p.m.
macropetala8 said...

That's right, trburrows! Tell'em how y'all southerners really feel. "Two-four-six-eight we're determine to segegrate!!"**

Shout it high! Shout it low! Shout it from those conservative Sunday church pews where y'all go!! hee hee :) Tell the world how you really feel. LOL

February 22, 2012 at 10:13 a.m.

The race card has been played out. That thing is so old and wrinkled it is barely reconizable any more. It doesn't apply any more. The failure of these inner city schools is the result of many factors, educational opportunity isn't one of them. The teachers at inner-city schools are just as qualified as the teacher at the "white-majority" schools. And in some cases, the "black-majority" inner-city schools receive more money. The two main problems playing out in these schools are the thug culture of self-destruction and the lack of parental involvement in their children's education and lives. Everyone knows it and sees it, but few want to address it. Throwing money at the problems doesn't work. Shipping the kids out to "majority-white" schools doesn't improve the inner-city neighborhoods and schools one bit. Maybe we are finally going to see the elephant in the room for what it is.

February 22, 2012 at 11:05 a.m.
Haiku said...

FPSE, those teachers at those "white-majjority" schools aren't going to allow little white johnny or sue who live in their neighborhood to fail, even if they have to cook the books to help'em pass. Neither when little white johnny or sue are caught smoking pot on campus or partaking in other antisocial activities will they have the law cal on them. Arrested, after first being tased. Children in inner city schools don't have that same protection. Children in inner city schools can be suspended for coming to class one minute after the bell rings. It doesn't matter if they locker was stuck and they were trying to retrieve a much needed book or paper for class. Children in inner city schools have been suspended because they didn't pass the ruler test. Meaning if the hem of their skirt failed the inch above the knee test they could be suspended. Children can't learn under such stressful conditions of uncertaintity where the rules can change daily, hourly or even from one minute to the next; one classroom to the next.

February 22, 2012 at 3:42 p.m.

Throwing money at problems blindly certainly doesn't work, but restricting money is just as blind a solution.

February 22, 2012 at 10:35 p.m.
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