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Two Hall County schools placed on state’s alert list

List aims to identify, assist low-performing schools

POSTED: August 13, 2014 1:16 a.m.

Two Hall County schools are on the state’s radar as a result of a lack of progress in student achievement over a three-year period.

West Hall High and Oakwood Elementary schools are on the 2014 alert list released Tuesday by the Georgia Department of Education. Oakwood was also placed on the previous alert list released in November.

“Alert schools receive school improvement support services and may receive small amounts of federal funding to assist with improvement initiatives,” said Kevin Bales, director of middle and secondary education for the Hall County School District.

West Hall High Principal Scott Justus expressed disappointment and frustration over the announcement, but said the school has been taking steps over the past couple of years to improve student performance.

“We have already implemented a plan,” said Justus. “We’re aware and we’ve been transparent with what’s going on. We are doing everything we can to make sure that West Hall High School and the West Hall community know that their kids are being taken care of, and that education is first and foremost.”

Schools on the alert list demonstrate “the lowest achievement of the ‘all students’ group in terms of proficiency on the statewide assessments,” per information from the Georgia Department of Education. Achievement is determined by performance on state standardized tests, such as the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests at the elementary level and End of Course Tests at the high school level.

Schools on the list also show a “lack of progress on those assessments over three years in the ‘all students’ group.”

Both Bales and Justus pointed out the data used for determining the alert list come from the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years.

“The district is well aware of the achievement data for the 2013-14 school year, but it doesn’t get used until next year,” Bales said.

“Bottom line, the Hall County School District recognized very legitimate student achievement performance concerns at these two schools two years ago,” he added. “We’ve already analyzed the student performance data for the 2013-14 school year. Oakwood Elementary School posted tremendous gains across all content areas last year,” including a 29 percent gain in social studies.

Identifying schools on priority, focus or alert lists is part of the state’s waiver from the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind.

Focus schools are Title I schools with “substantial gap between subgroups on achievement and/or graduation rates,” according to Bales. And priority schools are Title I schools with graduation rates less than 60 percent, or schools performing in the lowest 5 percent of improving student achievement.

Title I schools are those receiving financial assistance for having high numbers of students with low-income backgrounds. Schools on the alert list don’t necessarily have to be Title I schools.

Previously, alert schools were separated into three sections, based on graduation rates or performance among subgroups and individual subjects. For example, Oakwood Elementary was listed in 2013 for low performance among the Hispanic subgroup.

“The original definition did not capture some of our lower-performing ... schools that do need support and were not identified,” said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education. “It’s a better way of getting to the higher-need schools.”

The Georgia Department of Education’s website has Chicopee Elementary and Gainesville Middle schools on its focus schools list; none are on the list of priority schools.



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