List of failing schools released: Options for parents

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – A comprehensive list of failing schools is now available for parents and educators across Alabama.

The State Department of Education released the list Tuesday in conjunction with the criteria set by the Alabama Accountability Act.

The list is the biggest piece of the puzzle for parents who are considering transferring children to a different school.

It’s not the only question that needs to be answered.

For starters-would you want a transfer?

Some of the schools on the list have been doing better for the last few years, but the Accountability Act looks at a 6 year snapshot to determine if a school is failing.

Here’s another significant question: where can you transfer?

Although the law allows students in failing schools to request a transfer to a different public school or a private school, and even apply for a tax credit or (at some point) scholarship- those schools don’t have to accept transferring students.

According to the State Dept. of Education: to try to transfer a student- parents must first look in the their own district for a non-failing school that will accept the student- before trying to transfer to a different public school district- or private school.

They need to give notice to their current school that they are trying to leave and then provide the state board of education with documentation that another school is willing to accept them.

The Birmingham City School District has 11 schools on the failing list, but the superintendent doesn’t want families to make snap decisions.

“I see this as a glass half full that while we do have schools on this list let’s talk about the progress that these schools- as well as our other schools in the district- are indeed making,” said Dr. Craig Witherspoon, Superintendent of Birmingham City Schools. “We’re not going to rest with it. We want to continue to improve and move our schools forward and we will do that, but what can’t be denied is the progress that we are indeed making here in Birmingham City Schools and we want the entire community to recognize that as well.”

Two Jefferson County schools made the list- Brighton Middle School and Center Point High School.

“We have 5% of all the state’s public schools students and we had a couple of schools make the list out of  72. However, one of them shouldn’t have been on the list. It’s clearly a much improved school. Brighton Middle School has had good test scores for the most recent three years of the process, but it was the years of 07′, 08′ and 09′ which got them on the list,” said Dr. Stephen Nowlin, Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools. “When it comes to Center Point High School, Center Point High School in the most recent year was not in the bottom 6% for 2012. So we still have some work to do there.”

He says having only 2 out of the 56 Jefferson County Schools are on the failing schools list.

“Which is perhaps the lowest number of almost all the biggest systems in the state,” said Nowlin.

 

“We will be working out tomorrow, beginning tomorrow some schools of choice for Brighton Middle School parents who may want to have their kids transfer and then we will get them information out as quickly as possible in the next couple of weeks, hopefully about what their options are under the tuition possibilities that they have for reimbursement for tuition in the private schools,” said Nowlin.  “We’ve chosen not to accept students from other school districts outside Jefferson County School district’s lines.”

Shelby County has one school on the list of failing schools, but a county schools spokesperson says it’s a unique situation- because the Linda Nolen Learning Center is a special needs school that serves students from all over the county who want to be there- they don’t anticipate outgoing transfer requests.

What about the federal desegregation order  that requires some districts in Alabama to accept students from outside the district?   How is that impacted by the Alabama Accountability Act?

Jefferson County’s superintendent says county schools will continue to make provisions for some students from outside the district under the federal program, but not through the Alabama Accountability Act.

He says those students pay tuition to attend Jefferson County Schools. He doesn’t think the tax credits that will apply to students transferring to other public schools will be able to cover tuition in his district, but he’s not sure.

“I don’t think anybody’s asked that question before, but it’s my understanding it’s only tuition for approved private schools and the private schools have a strict set of criteria to meet before they can qualify for it so I would think the answer to that question is no that it will not help them with tuition for attending Jefferson County from outside although that’s something they may look at in the future,” said Nowlin.

Vestavia Hills City Schools, which has no failing schools and is now out from under that federal order-won’t be taking any transfer students period, according to the superintendent.

“We applied for to be removed from that order 6 years ago and the process has just been completed this year,” said Dr. Jamie Blair, Superintendent of Vestavia Hills City Schools.

“It’s always been the policy that Vestavia City Schools only accept students that live within our boundaries and in our situation, yes, overcrowding would be a problem. We’re pretty much full to the limit in all of our schools. In fact we’re adding classrooms to Vestavia Hills High School right now because of the increased student population just within our own community.”

http://www.alsde.edu/general/AAA_Regulations_Talking_Points.pdf

http://www.alsde.edu/general/AAA_Business_Rules.pdf

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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