Georgia’s newest choice program

Georgia families have a new school choice law that allows them to send their child to any public school in their district, provided the campus has room.

The program frees parents from having to attend the school located within their neighborhood’s attendance zones. It also streamlines the transfer process that many parents said made it nearly impossible to switch schools.

State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, (D-Austell) sponsored the law. She said parents will be able to “choose a school that is in the best interest of their child, not necessarily the best interest of their school district.”

State rules over these transfers should be in place in time for this coming school year.

It’ll be interesting to see how many transfers go through. Some of the area’s top high schools – such as Walton in Cobb County – have not had room for transfers in years.

What do you think of this new rule? What other choice programs would you like to see?

NOTE: School choice and other public education issues will be discussed from 4 to 7 p.m. today during a meeting organized by members of Georgia’s legislative black caucus at the state capitol.

52 comments Add your comment

VOICE

May 18th, 2009
9:02 am

CHOICE is good. However, whether this is “true choice” is questionable. Will this be effective? Only time will tell. I would like to see a choice program that allows enrollment across district lines, state-wide. Nevertheless, this is a move in the right direction.

DB

May 18th, 2009
9:28 am

Show me a highly ranked school that isn’t already at capacity – otherwise I give this bill a snowball’s chance of success. It seems that all the highly desirable schools are already exceeding capacity (see the trailers?), so unless you are stuck at a truly excreble school and just want to move up to a mediocre school, I don’t think this is going to have the impact is hoped for.

However (she says, cynically), I suspect there will always be a place at great schools for a talented athlete that will help them win the Director’s Cup . . .

Tony

May 18th, 2009
10:09 am

Most school systems already had mechanisms for in-county transfers. This law may make some requests a little easier. From my point of view, I like the fact that as we develop rules, we can provide for transfers back to the home school for poor behavior, poor attendance, and other very important factors. I’m OK with choice as long as it is a two-way street.

xnxnxnx

May 18th, 2009
10:24 am

At my school we have a lot of transfer students now. We have several well behaved sweet kids who would have been eaten alive at their neighborhood schools. They tend to be excellent students with very involved parents. Their parents have to arrange for their transportation of course, at their own expense. These kids make our school a better place in every way. I think we have an obligation to provide them with the best education we can and if that means choice for all, then choice it should be.

We also have some kids who transfer from other failing schools. The district gives these parents a check to pay for transportation. Many of these kids were terrible discipline problems at their previous school and they are terrible discipline problems at the new school. Their parents want the check (which is surprisingly large–hundreds of dollars a month). They have godlike status among the behavior problems at the new school. The kids there have never really seen true bad behavior and these kids from the rough part of the county come in with all that swagger and attitude–it makes them instant leaders of the wannabees. Very sad. Its a loss for everyone.

Lastly, we have some kids who are transfers from marginal schools in our district. Their parents don’t get the check. They drive their kids willingly because they think the kids at their old school were the problem that caused their precious darlings to always be in trouble. The kids are still in trouble all the time, of course; their behavior was a perfect match for the behavior of the kids in their old school. Their parents refuse to believe the problem is the child–they start out saying it was the habits they learned at the old school, but after a while in conferences, they start to blame the teachers. These parents are not involved with the school to make it better, but they do spend a lot of time there anyway mostly meeting with the counselor and the principal to complain, complain, complain.

I’m sure the old school was thrilled to see them go. So its better for them, but there is no improvement in the student’s education and certainly no improvement for the new school.

So in my opinion, choice will have mixed results. For the few good students who would not be well served by their old schools, it will be a genuine benefit for the students and the school. But for the other kinds of transfers, it will be bad for the new school and not much will change for the student except their behavior will stand out more and they will have the opportunity to negatively influence the behavior of some kids who might have otherwise made it thru school without being in a lot of trouble.

I’ll have to tell myself that there will be that rare kid who will be converted to an excellent student because of a transfer. And even if there is not, its worth the influx of bad students from bad schools to save the good students from bad schools. I just wish I could expect more of the good than the bad.

cobbteach

May 18th, 2009
10:38 am

I have quite a few CHOICE students also. For so many of them, it has made a wonderful fit for them and for us. xnxnxnx is right on, though, for those students and families with problems. One mother saw the school as the reason for her son being beaten by drug dealers twice. She was totally dismissive of his two previous arrests, his problems at his former school, and the eventual arrests and convictions of three young men from his old school for the beatings. Ah, well, now the family has “moved” out to another county (though, of course, the family resides still in the same house.)

Doug

May 18th, 2009
12:17 pm

Lets be honest here xn, what you are really saying is that you welcome the white kids who have the misfortune of being districted to a black school, but the black kids from black schools are going to drag your white school right on down. Is that about right?

Ernest

May 18th, 2009
12:21 pm

Like Tony said, Administrative Transfers have always been available. This law will make the process a bit more transparent.

My initial concern will be regarding the ‘business rules’ put in place to manage this. First, how does one determine if ’space’ is available at a school? Once that is done, will a public list be provided to help parents know their choices? Will priorities be given to any class of students? What I mean is will AYP transfers get priority via federal legislation for available seats? Will there be an open lottery if the number of applications exceed the seats available? What will happen to the ’sending’ schools if their population goes below an acceptable number to keep the school open? Will receiving schools be forced to add trailers if there is tremendous demand? What about special needs students? Could a school be required to change their teacher allocation based on receiving special needs students (supposedly school systems are going away from ‘centers’)?

I may look to invest in a car service as there could be opportunities to make some money….

Harper's Mama

May 18th, 2009
12:31 pm

Doug, whether the kid is white, black, green, bue or purple, the behavior problems remain, and the teacher is left to make sure that it doesn’t detract from other students’ learning. I can assure you that I would rather teach most of my black students who are being transfered because of their parents’ wishes than I would the entitled, self-centered lazy white kids that I teach (we call them SAWBs and SAWGs~sorry a$$ white boys and girls).

Clueless

May 18th, 2009
12:36 pm

So, the more affluent kids can go to a better school, but the less affluent ones will be stuck at the neighborhood school due to lack of transportation.

xnxnxnx

May 18th, 2009
12:58 pm

Doug:
No, I didn’t say that. And I didn’t mean that either. However, since you asked the question, I think its only fair to acknowledge that it would be difficult to have an honest discussion about school choice without addressing the issue of race and economic demographics. I think we can agree that there will probably be few white, affluent, suburban parents scrambling to transfer their children to black, poor, urban schools. Its also very likely that those same white, affluent parents fear the reverse.

I think Harper’s Mama is correct (though I dislike her language and its implications–please lets remember these are children we are talking about here) that students who are transferred because of parents wishes often make great students–but not always as I stated earlier.

The bottom line is public education is a publicly funded resource that is supposed to provide equal educational opportunities for all American children. We have to be fair in how we distribute resources and always mindful that we are not unfairly rationing opportunity.

Unfortunatly, fairness for some can have detrimental outcomes for others and we would be incredibly disengenuos to pretend that race and income are not a part of that formula.

Harper's Mama

May 18th, 2009
1:41 pm

xnxn,
Once they are seniors in high school and 18, they are no longer children.

Reality

May 18th, 2009
2:21 pm

Does the school have a choice to accept the student wanting to transfer?

For example, if there is a troubled student (jail, suspension, whatever) wants to transfer to another school, can that other school say “no thanks” even if they do have room?

Or, is it first come, first serve? Is a school with any room at all forced to take the first students to apply/request to transfer regardless of other factors?

Which of these options is true will greatly decide on the success of this program….

reality bites

May 18th, 2009
2:33 pm

Yes Doug lets be TOTALLY HONEST. Have you ever heard of ‘the tipping point?” The “darker” a school gets the worser the grades and discipline problems become. The 2000 pound elephant in the room is the poor behavior and academics of African-American youth. Its destroying public schools. Don’t believe me; look at Detroit city schools. All black leadership and still can’t do anything with “their children.” i hope I cleared things up for you.

Reality

May 18th, 2009
2:39 pm

reality bites – I am the least racist person you will ever meet. I am white, but about half of my friends are non-white. I even date blacks, asians, and hispanics.

However, as a teacher, I can verify what you describe. I have classes that are mostly white and classes that are mixed and there is a huge difference. This semester, I even had a class that started mostly white and within a month, I had a number of blacks transfer in – what a change (and not for the better).

I feel that it is not genetic but rather environmental. Many of these black kids come from broken homes and/or homes where the parents have no clue how to parent. The kids are just as smart, they just have really really bad manners, don’t know respect for anyone, are very selfish, etc. This is just my observations and my experience.

jim d

May 18th, 2009
5:41 pm

Not much, but it is a start!

jim d

May 18th, 2009
5:46 pm

Doug,

You got it wrong buddy, this program should actually help many minority students that are trapped in lower performing schoools based soley upon where they live.

Mr. Obvious

May 18th, 2009
8:04 pm

Enter your comments here

good ole boy

May 18th, 2009
8:28 pm

Wow! Reality bites changed the tone of this thread didn’t he? ;)

Ernest

May 18th, 2009
8:53 pm

Interesting point, JimD. I actually think more middle income minority students will leverage this as they will probably have the means to get to a higher performing school. The fact that transportation expense must be borne by the student’s family could create an obstacle for some.

Evil Old English Teacher

May 18th, 2009
9:39 pm

You know–I hear important conversations going on, but I think there is a major assumption being made that needs to be corrected. This is not about race–it is about poverty. Now, which came first the chicken or the egg, doesn’t matter. It is the poverty mindset that causes discipline problems in classrooms. If you are brought up with a poverty mindset, it is very difficult to change that mindset to see education as fundamental to survival.

Evil Old English Teacher

May 18th, 2009
9:43 pm

What is a poverty mindset? Glad you asked. I work in a school that has a huge range of incomes. We have about 25% free and reduced lunch and 25% extremely affluent. The rest fall in the middle. Because I deal with such a diverse population, I decided to educate myself on how to have the “hard conversations” with my kids. Ruby K Payne, author of A Framework for Understanding Poverty, has taught me how to approach the poverty mindset and have the hard conversations about class, poverty, and yes, race. I suggest it to everyone.

Evil Old English Teacher

May 18th, 2009
9:50 pm

In sum, the book says kids with a poverty mindset have a hard buying the “promise” of education, because those they have seen with power (while young) have rarely benefited from education. Poverty mindsets live in survival mode, so they usually see relationships and entertainment as far more important than planning (after all, when you live from paycheck to paycheck, it is difficult to plan). It is little wonder the poverty mindset struggles in school. after all, school is about long term goals, planning, and future self–something with which these kids have had little contact. So when I scold one of my free and reduced kids and he makes a joke out of it, I know it is survival instinct kicking in. I also know it is my responsibility to teach him why that mode doesn’t work in school, and most importantly, how to find success in school.

No matter what kind of school poverty mindsets attend, they need to have these conversations with someone they know cares about them. I don’t know (from the sounds of it) that they can get this at some of the “higher achieving” schools.

"Blame teachers first" worst column ever

May 18th, 2009
11:12 pm

Did the education shill Maureen “blame teachers first” Downey actually say she appreciates candor in a column? One who has shown NO candor? One who has consistently NOT told the truth about the lack of support Georgia teachers face?

Notice that EVERY statement of “candor” in her article was praise for someone who BLAMED A TEACHER. Where was Downey’s “candor” earlier this year, when multiple school systems were accused of cheating on the CRCT in summer school. I guess because it might implicate administrators and educrats the AJC tries to protect, instead of blaming a teacher “candor” goes out the window.

This is the person who has consistently attacked the ONE organization that has, hands down, shown the most candor when it comes to SYSTEMIC cheating, and the condoning of it at the highest levels, discipline and how teachers are not supported, retaliation of teachers by abusive administrators and other truths dare not spoken by the status quo, the Metro Association of Classroom Educators.

As as much as she has shown herself today to be a TOTAL hypocrite with her talk of “candor,” when she has attacked MACE the organization, but been asked to walk the walk of her own “candor” and defend her words in a debate with the head of MACE, she has consistently ducked the issue.

She calls that candor? I guess that’s why, in the candid opinion of the editorial board, she’s being busted down to an education blog LOL

Dr. John Trotter

May 19th, 2009
1:46 am

School systems like Atlanta and DeKalb will use subterfuge and deceit to keep from abiding by this new law. What will Kathy Cox and the State Board do now? NOTHING.

jim d

May 19th, 2009
3:19 am

Ernest,

You maybe correct, However if one were to take a close look at attendance zones, I can assure you you there are more than a few instances where students are attending schools that are further away than another school that might better suit the needs of the student.

I would also suggest one look at the process used when drawing attendance zones, I’ve seen neighborhoods split for what I’d call rather dubious reason here in northern Gwinnett county.

catlady

May 19th, 2009
6:46 am

This program does WHAT for rural areas? The nearest high school or middle school besides the local ones are 30 miles away in a neighboring county. A sop for the metro area, and a law that does nothing for most of Georgia. Wake up, Georgia; these legislators want to look good but they don’t care about you, really.

Lisa B.

May 19th, 2009
8:16 am

There will be no choice here either. In the Southwest Georgia county where I work, we have one high school, one middle school, one upper elementary and one lower elementary school.

Math Wiz

May 19th, 2009
8:27 am

“This is not about race–it is about poverty.”

Not true. I taught, math, for 6 years in W. Virginia in a very economically depressed area. I didn’t have any major discipline problems and very few minor ones. Now if you are talking about poverty of morals thats a different story.

Evil Old English Teacher

May 19th, 2009
8:50 am

Math Wiz,

Are you suggesting then, that some races have poverty in morality? How very close-minded. What I reference in my post is backed by research done over 15+ years. You reference anecdotal data based on a single area. Interestingly, we often make rules of the exception because they stick out in our minds. It seems that is what you have done here.

I hardly think it valid to say that race is basis on morality–or lack there of.

VOICE

May 19th, 2009
9:26 am

Doggone it y’all, get back on the issue. It ain’t about race! It’s about CHOICE! Did anyone notice Reality’s post about whether the schools would have the CHOICE to accept or reject a student? That is a key issue. Also, Jim d indicated that a system allowing CHOICE would actually benefit many minority students. I think he is right. (Sorry Jim, I did it again :) )

In order for some of you to fully understand education and the race/poverty (moral or economic) issue as it relates to African-Americans, you would either have to experience it firsthand, and/or maybe get a realistic grasp of Dr. W. E. B. Dubois’ concept of the “talented tenth”. Other than that, y’all need to leave that issue alone. You are simply travelling on theoretical guesswork and rhetoric.

Beyond that, however, CHOICE allows the system a chance to self-correct. Is it perfect? No. But, I think it serves as the best chance that we have to salvage our public education system. Just consider our college/university system. It’s not the best in the world, but we are doing okay. K-12 should model it.

Math Wiz

May 19th, 2009
10:19 am

Thats exactly what I’m saying. Thats also what Bill Cosby, TD Jakes, and to some extent Jesse Jackson have said on different occasions. Since you have the “research” based answers tell me why Detroit and D.C. schools have such low graduation rates even though per student they spend more money then most of the schools in the U.S.

Math Wiz

May 19th, 2009
10:36 am

“In order for some of you to fully understand education and the race/poverty (moral or economic) issue as it relates to African-Americans, you would either have to experience it firsthand, and/or maybe get a realistic grasp of Dr. W. E. B. Dubois’ concept of the “talented tenth”. Other than that, y’all need to leave that issue alone. You are simply travelling on theoretical guesswork and rhetoric.”

Wow! I’ve never been patronized on the net before. I fully understand the concept of the “talented tenth.” The bottom line is it didn’t work then and it isn’t working now. When integration and affirmative action opened up new opportunities for African-Americans the ones who could fled the projects en mass. Am I my brothers keeper? Not hardly. That “takes a village” spiel sounds good but please don’t push your problems off on me.

Danteach

May 19th, 2009
10:44 am

Voice, it is African-Americans such as yourself that allow this behavior to go on. Math Wiz is correct about what Bill Cosby, TD Jakes, and others have said.

I don’t buy the poverty mindset crap for a minute. You can be poor without being disrespectful. You can be poor and act like you have good sense. You can be poor and still do very well in school. You can be poor and not cuss out a teacher and fight them on everything. I know plenty of people that come from poverty, and exceed. These are students and adults.

Cere

May 19th, 2009
11:18 am

I’ve always been interested in the struggle between Dubois and Booker T. Washington. Dubois being the advocate of educating the top 10% to the highest level, and Washington, the advocate of industrial education (offering a slower rise to equality) were practically mortal enemies.

Why? Why could they not BOTH be correct? Aren’t there some who can handle the rigor and have the interest in a university education, and some who would like to learn a trade, use their hands and offer a good days’ work for a solid days’ pay?

If we could simply reconcile that basic struggle, and support BOTH lines of thinking, it seems to me that we could elevate ALL groups up a level or two in society. Industrial (vocational/technical/hands-on) education is vibrant and successful in the north, and the reason there is a much stronger middle class there than here. What if blacks had followed Washington’s advice way back then? What if they had, over generations, climbed their collective way up the socio-economic ladder? Could he have had a point? Maybe the tortoises’ way is the best.

Jake the Snake

May 19th, 2009
11:30 am

Actually Dubois was a socialist who renounced his citizenship in his later years and moved to Ghana where he died. His writings were deep but did little to help the people. Washington did a LOT of advocating for blacks behind the scenes and was instrumental in the founding of Tuskegee which is a premier HBCU. I’ve always thought that the “uncle tom” label that some try to pin on Booker T. is wrong.

Lisa B.

May 19th, 2009
2:48 pm

Why should school choice be limited by county lines? In some areas, the students may cross county lines and attend schools closer to their homes than the schools they are required to attend. Some counties may work harder to improve if their students were allowed to flee across county lines. I too, think school choice would benefit students. I also think schools would be less inclined to put up with unacceptable behavior if students had more options. Currently, if a student is kicked out of school in some counties, there are no other schools in the county for the student to attend.

Competition is healthy.

Ernest

May 19th, 2009
3:04 pm

Reasonable question Lisa B. A student may cross county lines to attend another school however usually there is a tuition payment that goes along with that. The taxpayers of that county help fund the school budget with their property taxes. Why should someone that has not ‘added to the pot’ have the ability to attend those schools? Before someone mentions those that live in apartments, please remember property taxes are included in their rent.

The best scenario is to be an educator and live in a ‘low tax’ county near a larger school system. If they work in that larger school system, in most cases their chiildren can attend schools their at no cost. I bet if the government wanted to tax that benefit, you would hear a LOT of howling….

VOICE

May 19th, 2009
3:15 pm

Once again, some of y’all missed the point. IT’S ABOUT CHOICE!!!

Math Wiz, the talented tenth did work and is still working. Just in case you haven’t noticed, we have an African-American President. How do you explain that? I think it had a LOT to do with CHOICE and the concept of the talented tenth! And, unless you are an African-American raised in poverty, you don’t have a clue about what the talented tenth concept is about. You may think you know, but you don’t.

Danteach, you are speaking from pure ignorance. First of all, you don’t know me. Secondly, I AGREE with Cos and Bishop. Furthermore, you have no idea about what type of work I do, or the roll that I play everyday in helping to correct these problems. You simply ASSUME too much.

Cere, you are right. They both were correct. I only focused on Dr. Dubois because of the relevance that the talented tenth concept has with the notion of some ignorant white folks who think they understand what is really going on with black folks, and they are so far off base it’s pathetic.

Finally, that’s partly why I think CHOICE is a step in the right direction. It has allowed our country to progress to this point, and our public schools should follow suit.

VOICE

May 19th, 2009
3:20 pm

And, oh yeah, Math Wiz, you should probably stick with math. :)

jim d

May 19th, 2009
3:36 pm

WORD!!

“from one of those ignorant white folk”

jim d

May 19th, 2009
3:38 pm

Voice,

WORD!!

from one “ignorant white folk”

Math Wiz

May 19th, 2009
4:25 pm

Did a village raise Obama or was he primarily raised by his white grandparents? Btw you don’t need to be raised poor and black to understand the problems they might face. You also don’t have a clue about whom or what you are talking about. You sound like a typical whiny a$$ liberal spouting the same failed liberal policies that have ruined our public schools. Also don’t ASSume that you are talking to someone white. Like you told Danteach… you don’t know me.

Math Wiz

May 19th, 2009
4:30 pm

“…some ignorant white folks who think they understand…”

Now replace white with black and tell me whats wrong with your statement. I pointed out a real issue; under performance and discipline problems of black students, and you response basically was…Its a black thing yall don’t understand. Please tell us ignorant white folk how we can appease you.

VOICE

May 19th, 2009
4:58 pm

Jim d, you ain’t nowhere near ignorant! I’m beginning to think that you are brilliant. Thanks. :)

jim d

May 19th, 2009
5:08 pm

Voice,

I’m starting to believe you are getting more intelligent every day as well.

jim d

May 19th, 2009
5:11 pm

Voice,

Don’t know if its because the sun is shinning and I’m getting a tan or if perhaps you are pulling a jackson and getting lighter every day but we both seem to be gaining smarts. :)

Classroom Teacher

May 19th, 2009
5:11 pm

Math Wiz don’t bother arguing with Voice. His/her solution is to blame white folks for everything and to call us ignorant. Why is it that blacks are held to a different standard when it comes to racism. Oh and by the way I teach in an all black title one school in rural Georgia. The only people I see holding my students back are the students themselves.

VOICE

May 19th, 2009
5:49 pm

Wow!!! How did some of you still miss it??? I never blamed anyone. I’m an advocate of CHOICE. CHOICE is a large part of the answer, not white folks. Don’t try to twist my logic. My position is clear. When we have true CHOICE the doors are open, and that’s how we get an African-American President.

Jim d, that “pulling a jackson” was a good one!

Classroom Teacher

May 19th, 2009
8:10 pm

“…some ignorant white folks who think they understand…”

“Don’t try to twist my logic. My position is clear.”

Yes. I would say its very clear.

Classroom Teacher

May 20th, 2009
9:52 am

“And, unless you are an African-American raised in poverty, you don’t have a clue about what the talented tenth concept is about. You may think you know, but you don’t.”

To be fair to Voice this morning I asked 7 of my co-workers, all African-American from humble origins, what the talented tenth concept was about. None of them had a clue except for the social studies teacher.