I did a public records request to check in on the number of interdistrict transfer(IDT) students as compared to last year. I reached 2 overriding conclusions: (1) TSD’s IDT population declined by about 66 students, or roughly 18%; and (2) While all the other TSD schools are getting within the range of their local peers, THS still has a disproportionate number of IDT students, although the number declined significantly this year.
Note—I am sure our followers are fully aware I have strong opinions regarding the decision making process, and logic, with respect to when TSD should or should not enroll IDT students. Here are the links to prior blogs on the topic– IDT counts for last year, Budget Impact of IDT Students and Response to Superintendent Bash’s comments. Accordingly, while I do offer some opinions in this blog, for the most part I am going to try and not regurgitate information from prior blogs.
Here are the IDT students by school as compared with last year:
****The chart does not include students at Avanti, New Market or Secondary Options as the Districts have cooperative agreements regarding placements into those schools and they appear to be generally not subject to IDT policies.
TSD STILL ACCEPTS SIGNIFICANTLY MORE IDT STUDENTS THAN SURROUNDING DISTRICTS
As a reminder, an IDT student is any student who does not reside within the District boundaries. Just to be clear, I did not include Interzone transfers, which are those students who do not attend their home school, but do attend a school within their home school district’s boundaries(i.e a student who lives in Peter G boundaries, but attends Black Lake).
As you can see, about 5% of TSD’s students do not reside within TSD Boundaries. This is about double that of the Olympia School District(roughly 2%) and about 5 times that of North Thurston Public Schools(less than 1%).
While TSD reduced its IDT population this year by about 66 students, there is still a gap before its numbers are comparable to surrounding districts.
TUMWATER HIGH SCHOOL ACCEPTS IDT STUDENTS AT A RATE THAT IS NOT COMPARABLE WITH ANY OTHER SCHOOL.
THS accepts disproportionately more IDT students when compared to pretty much any other school in the county. About 13%(153 students) of the THS population is comprised of IDT students. This is down from 16%(179 students) last year. I could not get any clarification as to whether or not THS changed its selectivity, although it appears the same timeline was used. It makes sense to me that, if THS opted to follow the TSD policy, it might ease into the process, and be much more selective with incoming freshman, while not sending previously accepted upper class students back to their home schools Maybe TSD just didnt accept as many freshman, and we will see a continuing decrease on a year by year basis. This information is hard to track as I was advised TSD does not maintain IDT information by grade.
THE NEW SUPERINTENDENT APPEARS TO BE WILLING TO WORK ON THE APPLICATION OF THE IDT POLICIES
Tami and I sat down with Sean Dotson(TSD Superintendent) and Jim Brittain a few weeks ago and discussed the application of the IDT policies(which can be located here). I came away from our meeting thinking that we are pretty much on the same page on many topics, and I am optimistic that changes will be made. I think we all agreed on the following:
1.With strategic placement, IDT students can have a positive financial impact;
2.The needs of TSD resident students should take priority over the needs/desires of IDT students;
3. All interzone transfers should be completed before IDT students are accepted;
4. Already accepted IDT students should be allowed to finish out their tenure at their currently enrolled school; and
5.The current policies, are probably adequate. Any deficiency lies in the application of those policies.
DISPLACEMENT IS SUBJECTIVE
Although there is some discretion in the transfer policies, transfers generally must be rejected when students are “displaced.” Sean indicated that, at least in the educational system, the term “displaced” is generally limited to those situations when resident students are unable to attend a school. I am not well versed in the legal definition as it applies to IDT policies. Tami and I pointed out that we believe resident students are displaced when they cannot register for some particular classes, or are required to attend another school in order to take a particular class, or are placed in overcrowded classes, or are denied opportunities for extracurricular activities.
I remain puzzled why THS consistently accepts so many IDT students. It is financially taxing on the budget, results in overcrowded classrooms, and negatively impacts resident students. We know around 13% of the population does not reside within the TSD boundaries. It seems to me an IDT decision should not be made until the master schedule is completed and we know if classes are at capacity.
While I would never make a contention that extracurricular activities should drive the discussion, it is clear resident students are being denied extracurricular opportunities. I conducted an informal, and random, survey of some extracurricular activities. From what I can tell, in most cases, no less than 20% of the spots on varsity sports teams are occupied by IDT students. At least 2 sports that I know of have more than 40% of starters being IDT students. This does not surprise me as it is also my opinion, and experience, that IDT families have a higher participation rate in extra curricular activites than resident students. The above being said, once accepted, the IDT students should have no restrictions on participation, and should be treated like all other students. However, this is another area where it appears to me the needs of the resident students are being overlooked.
It also sounds like TSD will move the date back for accepting student transfer applications. Traditionally, THS has started accepting applications in January, but Sean indicated they would not accept applications until the Board considers the committee work(see below)–which is scheduled to finish in February. I cant imagine any reason TSD would start accepting applications before April or May.
TSD IS FORMING A COMMITTEE TO MAKE SUGGESTIONS REGARDING THE TRANSFER POLICIES
This is great news. Tami and I have been encouraging TSD to seek community input, especially from resident families, to determine the parameters around interzone and interdistrict transfers. The TSD Committee, made up of volunteer community members, is set to meet 3 or 4 times between November and February, and then come up with suggestions.
The Committee will also tackle how to handle interzone tranfers, which has become a pretty hot topic given the boundary changes for elementary schools that have been approved for 2020-21 school year. I assume, as in the past, TSD will make the work of the committee known during the process so that the general public still has the opportunity to provide input.
COMMENTARY—PRIORITIZATION IS CRITICAL
TSD is a much desired location for families. Provided TSD has capacity, TSD should welcome non-resident families into our District once TSD has determined that it has met the needs of resident students. I am hopeful that the Transfer committee will engage in open and candid discussions surrounding the application of the Interzone and Interdistrict, policies. The community needs to be heard, and should determine, how TSD moves forward on this particular issue. If I were King for a Day, I would propose the following.
1. Offer some priority to children of TSD Staff(this is actually required by State law);
2. Pursuant to the current policy, set some specific parameters with respect to classroom capacity/placement that addresses the needs of resident students(i.e. placement/schedules are done for resident students in advance of accepting IDT students to ensure no resident student is displaced);
3. Forgo consideration of IDT applications until all Interzone transfers have been considered;
4. Strategically accept IDT students only when it is financially beneficial under the present funding model;
5. Where IDT spots are available, create some criteria and priority so there is balance and consistency from school to school, especially between the high schools.
6. Appreciate a nominal number of IDT applicants present circumstances with overriding factors, and should be accepted regardless of the stated criteria
As always, we encourage you to contact TSD leadership, including the TSD Board Members, to voice your opinions. We also appreciate feedback, and invite others to write guest blogs in the event you are so inclined. firstname.lastname@example.org