While their children find their way around a new school and a new schedule, their parents are finding out about a new school district’s expectations and reputation.
Every year, hundreds of children change school districts in Johnson County, such as when their parents move for a new job or career change or want their children in a different school system. In some local districts, about 10 percent of students move in or out each year, according to statewide data. For example, Greenwood schools had about 13 percent of students transfer in and out last school year, the highest rate in the county.
“We have a pretty high transient population. Historically, that has been the case,” Greenwood Superintendent Kent DeKoninck said. “We always try to hold on to all of our kids, but it’s all part of the process.”
Moving into a new school district involves more than just learning how to get around a new building or meeting a new teacher. Students also have to make new friends and possibly adjust to new expectations. That’s why local school districts have systems in place to help those students find ways to get involved and get comfortable as soon as possible.
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More than 2,100 students changed school districts in Johnson County last year, with the rate of students moving in and out ranging from about 5 percent in Center Grove to 11 percent in Edinburgh and 13 percent in Greenwood, according to state reports.
For smaller school districts like Edinburgh, that 11 percent equals about a ninth of the school district coming or going each year. The number of students who transfer fluctuates from year to year, according to data collected in this year’s school district performance reports. The reports are required to be published by the Indiana Department of Education, allowing the public to see their school district’s state testing results, student enrollment numbers, teachers’ salaries and student-to-teacher ratio.
Before the school year starts, schools typically examine the transcripts of transferring students to know their reading levels and testing abilities and what classes they need to take to be on track at their new school, officials said.
Families who move into the area are welcomed with events specifically for incoming students, who need to learn their new surroundings. Each Center Grove school hosts a new student night in early August before school starts, said Center Grove Superintendent Rich Arkanoff. New students and their families can be introduced to the teachers, principals and central office staff, such as the school nurse.
Once the school year starts, elementary-aged students typically are paired with a buddy in the classroom to help them find the cafeteria and get used to the rules and to ask any questions that come up, like finding the restrooms.
School officials also encourage new students to find an extracurricular activity that they enjoy. At Center Grove’s new-student nights, school officials promote clubs and groups, such as LEGO League and music, Arkanoff said. Helping parents and students know what extracurricular activities are available is important, he said.
“Parents are always concerned about transition, mostly (with) friends,” Arkanoff said.
Parents are encouraged to call principals or the superintendent to discuss important factors to them, officials said. For Greenwood, parents have asked about the school district’s bullying policy and how students are disciplined if they fight or are caught bullying another student, DeKoninck said.
He said he also has fielded questions about how often and what kind of drugs show up in the school district and if gangs are an issue.
Clark-Pleasant Community School Corp. continues to deal with inaccuracies in annual performance reports.
For the past two years, Clark-Pleasant’s student-to-teacher ratio has been wildly above the district’s true number, officials said. While the district’s average number of students per classroom ranges from 20 to 23, the state reports this year that Clark-Pleasant’s average ranges from 40 to 61 students per classroom.
“We’re trying to get it cleaned up and find out why this error keeps occurring,” Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said.
“They’re claiming it’s coming from some of our state reports and still searching for a new answer so there are no longer errors.”
Inaccuracies can happen from time to time, said Indiana Department of Education spokesman Daniel Altman, but student-to-teacher ratios have not been a common error in this year’s reports. He did not know why Clark-Pleasant’s report had the same inaccuracy two years in a row.
To correct the inaccuracy, Clark-Pleasant’s data include a different number in bold to show its actual data.
Showing the true data in these reports is important so parents and residents do not assume that four or five dozen students are learning in a classroom at once, Rains said.
“The average person in the public takes this at face value,” Rains said. “If you look around the county, our ratio is pretty low compared to others.”
Look inside today’s Daily Journal for annual school performance reports, which break down how local school districts did on multiple factors the state tracks, including test scores, graduation rates and attendance.