Lack of permanency hurts Georgia students - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lack of permanency hurts Georgia students

January 4, 2007

Albany--  Are students educated in the South less likely to be successful?  A recent report published in Education Week says yes.

The state of Georgia ranked 38th of 50 states on the study's "Chance for Success" category. The study measured reading and math scores, graduation rates and the the number of adults with college degrees.  

Another big issue also factors into the picture.   It's an economic one.  The issue of low incomes and high numbers of children living in poverty brought Georgia's score down. It is a problem in Dougherty County schools.  Because of different financial reasons, some students shift from school to school. They're what the school system calls 'transient.'

Students raise their hands in Dougherty County schools. But by the end of the year, sometimes the number of those raised hands are reduced in classrooms.

"It's been something that we've had to deal with for quite some time now," said Dougherty County School Superintendent Sally Whatley. A problem for quite some time now, for different economic reasons.

"Parents or guardians may have to move in with other family members. It may be something as significant as finances and rent," said Whatley. Some families have to move around because of it and when they do, students have to transfer. Sometimes they have to transfer more than once.

Dougherty County School Superintendent Sally Whatley says last year, school leaders looked at just how transient the population is in the system. Out of 15 elementary schools, movement of kids in and out was significant.

"It ranged from 17 percent at the very lowest to 89 percent which you can imagine when you have a very, very high percentage of movement in and out of a classroom, that clearly makes a very great challenge for that classroom teacher," said Whatley.

It can be a challenge for the child also.  Transfers can affect their outlook and education. So what can be done for them?

"We all have to give a helping hand. We all have to reach out and say hey what can we do to help," said Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany Director of Operations Bob Hutchinson.

One help could be a future partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany.  Hutchinson says some transient students along with other troubled students could benefit from a new turnaround program on the horizon.

"With the focus on getting these kids turned around and back into a regular classroom," said Hutchinson. Along with an education, students would benefit from enrichment programs like arts and crafts or technology on a consistent basis.

"I think it's going to benefit the whole community," said Hutchinson. That program is still in the early planning stages.  For now, Whatley says although the school system can't control the fact that families have to move, they can control the education that child receives.

"We don't use that as an excuse. We're going to do the very best job that we can," said Whatley. That involves a consistent curriculum and high expectations for students no matter which school they attend. And with work, the same hands will go up at the beginning and at the end of the year.

Dr. Whatley says the stronger relationship a parent or guardian has with the school system, the better the opportunities they can provide for that child. She urges any parents with concerns or troubles to contact them to see what can be done.

The movement of transient students has also affected class sizes.  A state mandate requires schools have only a certain number of students. Dougherty County has had to request class waivers from the state to deal with some overcrowded classrooms.  

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