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Leaders say student progress should be key to judging schools

Officials telling state new index depends too much on one test

POSTED: November 16, 2013 11:31 p.m.

As the state looks at how to better grade school systems, local school leaders want to see more emphasis on student progress.

The first scores under Georgia’s new accountability system, called the College and Career Ready Performance Index, were released last year; since then, the Georgia Department of Education has requested school systems submit what they would like to see changed in the index.

It’s an effort to “make (the index) really tell the story of success or challenges in a school,” said Martha Reichrath, deputy state superintendent.

The new index was put in place in 2012 as a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

No Child Left Behind went into effect in 2002, meant as a way to close achievement gaps between students regardless of background; Georgia was one of several states to be granted a waiver from the program. As part of that waiver, the new index was put into place to hold schools and school systems accountable.

Hall and Gainesville education leaders are pushing for the index to better reflect how much students are learning, rather than simply the final scores of an assessment test.

“Achievement doesn’t show what happens over the course of a year,” Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction with Gainesville, said. “It’s a single moment. Progress shows what occurs from point A to point B.”

The overall score under the new system is made up of three areas, including achievement, progress and achievement gap. Achievement takes up most of the score with 70 points possible.

Progress and achievement gap each can count up to 15 points each.

“We’ve constantly encouraged the state to, when at all possible, move in a direction a little bit away from so much dependency of the index on standardized test scores,” said Kevin Bales, middle grades school improvement specialist with Hall County.

Educators think the new index should more closely align with how teachers and school leaders are evaluated, which is geared more toward progress rather than achievement.

“That, to me, is the biggest disconnect with the index,” Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. “The growth is the most important thing (in teacher and leader ratings).”

“If they could be more in alignment as a district, we could focus on the same thing,” Moore added.

Reichrath said there are some changes in place for this year’s index, though not all have been announced yet.

The 2013 ratings are tentatively slated for release mid-December, she said.

Bales said, from his perspective, the point is not to go from one extreme to another but to better incorporate other factors.

“There’s going to be data that is derived from those results, and we understand that,” Bales said. “We just hope that as we move towards the future that we’ll recognize there are other pieces of student performance that are not always captured by a way the student bubbles ‘A,’ ‘B’ or ‘C.’”

There is also the thought that when the public judges schools based on what the new index says, it can lead to a misinterpretation of the overall picture. Dyer said that rating a school based primarily on achievement rather than progress and other factors can lead to a “self-fulfilling prophecy” of the public only judging schools by overall test scores.

“The school is viewed as not as good a school because they have more challenges,” she explained. “Then that school gets less support from the public. It turns into the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ We’re never going to raise conditions for our children that come from poverty unless the public supports those schools and believes that they can make progress."


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