Students from several Valdosta city schools will have the option of transferring to a school outside of their zoned district for the 2010-2011 school year.

School choice has been in effect within the school system for several years and comes into play when a school fails to meet regulatory standards set up by the federal government.

The option of school choice is a critical component of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, said JaBra Harden-Fuller, director of federal programs.

“A local education agency must offer public school choice to all students in Title I schools identified for school improvement, corrective action or state directed status until the school is no longer identified,” she said.

According to Public School Choice Non-Regulatory Guidance from 2009, public school choice “offers a student enrolled in a Title I school that is identified for school improvement, corrective action or stated-directed status an opportunity to attend a public school that has not been so identified. The process of turning around a low-performing school is difficult and typically takes time and during that time the school’s students are at risk of falling further behind if they do not have additional options.”

A school comes out from under the umbrella of these identifiers when it has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two consecutive years, she said.

School choice provides all students, including students with disabilities and limited English proficient students, in low-performing Title I schools the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education, the document states.

Expanded parental choice gives schools a greater incentive to undertake reforms and make the changes that are needed to improve student learning and reach academic achievement goals, the document states.

Students eligible for public school choice for the 2010-2011 school year include fifth graders who attended W.G. Nunn Elementary School, J.L. Lomax Elementary School and Southeast Elementary School during the 2009-2010 school year, sixth and seventh grade students who attended Newbern Middle School during the 2009-2010 school year and fifth grade school choice students who attended Sallas-Mahone Elementary School during the 2009-2010 school year. All of these are eligible to attend Valdosta Middle School during the 2010-2011 school year.

Harden-Fuller said that a school is removed from the Needs Improvement List once it makes AYP two years in a row.

Southeast Elementary School made AYP in 2008-2009 and must make it again in 2009-2010 to be removed from the list, she said.

The official AYP report for the 2009-2010 year school will not be released until the end of June or first of July, she said.

Schools that students transfer into definitely       see an increase in enrollment, Harden-Fuller said, but whether the transfer  of students from one school to another affects test scores is hard to discern.

“Other factors besides school choice must be taken into consideration when addressing the impact of test scores,” Harden-Fuller said.

However the Title I school that has fallen under these requirements could meet AYP with a reduction in enrollment.

“A reduction in student-teacher ratio should improve success rate for schools on the Needs Improvement List by allowing time for the school to address the areas of need,” Harden-Fuller said.

Transfer applications were mailed to the homes of students in affected districts on May 20. For a student to be transferred, an application must be completed by the parent or legal guardian of the eligible student or students. Applications may also be accessed at www.gocats.org.

Applications may be submitted to the Valdosta City School System’s Title I office from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. The deadline for submitting a school transfer is Wednesday, June 23.

For more information contact JaBra Fuller, Title I Director, at (229)671-6013.

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