Hall County has placed two of its middle schools on the list of “reward schools” for their performance improvement over three years on the statewide assessments.
The list, which was released by the Georgia Department of Education on Wednesday, separates the list into two categories: “highest-performing” and “high-progress” schools.
Both East Hall Middle School and South Hall Middle School made the “high-progress” list.
A highest-performing school is a Title 1 school among the 5 percent of Title 1 schools in the state that has “the highest absolute performance over three years for the ‘all students’ group on the statewide assessments.”
A high-progress school is a Title 1 school among the 10 percent of Title 1 schools that is “making the most progress in improving the performances” on the same assessments.
The state has also designated alert, priority and focus schools, titles given to schools that perform under the set standards.
The new designations were instituted after Georgia was waived from complying with No Child Left Behind.
“I’m very proud of what those two schools continue to do,” said Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield.
Under the old performance system, Adequate Yearly Progress, East Hall had met the standards since the 2006-07 school year.
“I think you have to start first of all with how proud we are of the students,” said Vickie Tribble, East Hall principal. “They’re the ones that did the work.”
Tribble said her staff, which was previously under the leadership of Kevin Bales before he moved to the central office, was “focused and intentional” and created a climate that is conducive for student success.
“There was a climate there where the staff was focused and dedicated to helping the students grow,” she said. “It is something that has to be consistent. This is not accomplished overnight.”
In 2011, South Hall did not meet AYP, but had done so the previous two years in a row.
“We’re proud that we have made it,” said Paula Stubbs, South Hall principal. “When you look at the definition of high progress, it’s making the most progress in all students group.”
Stubbs said her teachers, both at the middle school and at the Da Vinci Academy at South Hall Middle School, made an effort to individualize learning for students of all levels.
“Our teachers are moving toward and understanding that they assess not to give to children a grade, but to understand where (students) are so they can reach them where they need to,” said Stubbs.
Under the new performance index, the College and Career Ready Performance Index, schools are now judged on more criteria than the previous AYP index. Included in the new index is progress in student achievement.
But some school leaders feel that although the new index is a move in the right direction, it still weighs heavily on “basic competency” and not enough on “rigor.”
“I think anything that continues to move us away from a one-snapshot pass/fail that has multiple indicators has got to be a positive thing,” said Schofield. “I still want to see a whole lot less basic competency and a whole lot more opportunities to demonstrate rigor.”
The new index grades schools in three main areas: student achievement, yearly progress and closing the achievement gap. Student achievement — or standardized tests — counts for the bulk of the grade.
Both Stubbs and Tribble said the student progress is a positive indicator for a school’s success.
“It makes us focus on individuals,” said Stubbs. “What I am thrilled with is the student growth percentiles. That allows us, wherever the child is, is to show growth.”
She hopes, however, the measure of standardized tests “gets refined a good bit.”
But, Schofield said, it’s a positive step.
“It’s a move towards growth and not just absolute scores,” he said. “It at least acknowledges that there are parts of school other than basic competency and that’s a move in the right direction.”