Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

March 7, 2013

Letters to the Editor: March 7, 2013

(Continued)

 

Let local school boards do their jobs

HB 1381, the student transfer bill has passed the House and now goes to the Senate. Eastern opposes this legislation. This bill proposed by Representative Karickhoff will reduce transfers in Howard County as Eastern Howard will no longer accept high school transfers after July 1, 2013. We believe that locally elected school boards should be making transfer decisions. Passage of this bill will deny high school students the opportunity to attend Eastern in the future because it will negatively impact Eastern’s graduation rate if Eastern would have to accept every student regardless of the credits he or she has earned at a neighboring school. For example, if a student transferred to Eastern with 3 or 4 credits their junior year that student would count against Eastern’s graduation rate even though we could not get the student graduated no matter what we tried to do to guarantee success. We would just run out of time. Also under the proposed bill students with multiple suspensions and attendance issues could attend Eastern under a lottery type system. These situations, as well, have the potential to impact our school corporation in a negative manner. With school funding and letter grades being dependent on a number of metrics, including graduation rates, and teacher evaluations being tied to student achievement a lottery is a negative system for those schools that believe in school choice for students that meet the locally developed criteria established by elected school boards.

Currently 231 transfer students attend Eastern and we accept 96 percent of applicants. Our transfer students make up 16 percent of our student body. Over 700 students have had the opportunity to transfer in Howard County. That’s hardly cherry picking. With an elementary school nationally recognized for technology and a high school ranked 17th in Indiana out of over 379 high schools by U.S. News and World Report we welcome the competition, and feel that school choice raises achievement in Howard County Schools. Look at the many innovative programs started in all of the Howard County schools. Unfortunately this bill will erode school choice for families. Two of our three representatives in Howard County, representatives Turner and VanNatter opposed passage of HB 1381. Representative Karickhoff, who represents Eastern, sponsored the bill.

Eastern is opposed to this legislation because, ultimately, less children will have an opportunity to schools of choice in Howard County.  No school system can afford to have a reduction in graduation rates by accepting transfer students who cannot graduate in the required four years. No school system can afford to accept transfer students with multiple suspensions and attendance issues when teacher pay and benefits are dependent on student achievement. It is clear that this legislation is designed to protect urban districts from urban flight to higher performing school districts. A lottery system is designed to force districts to choose between funding and achievement. If you accept all students the school that educated the child for eight, nine or even 10 years gets a free pass on graduation rates as the student behind on credits now will be factored into the school in which he or she transfers; if you do not accept all students you lose the funding that follows the child, but maintain the graduation rates that your teachers have worked so hard to maintain.  

Let local school boards do the jobs they were elected to do which is to set policies and represent their districts. School transfer decisions should be a matter of local control.

Dr. Tracy Caddell, Eastern Howard School Corporation Superintendent

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