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4 area schools make greatest gains; Fair Street on chronically failing list
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Gabriela Turcios, 8, and Eyly Turcios, 8, take turns reading Friday at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School in Gainesville. Each Fair Street Student has a reading lesson every day with his or her class. - photo by Erin O. Smith

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To find how your school fared go the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement School Reports at https://schoolgrades.georgia.gov.

Three Hall County schools joined Gainesville Exploration Academy in making the list of 218 schools from 53 districts receiving “highest performing” or “greatest gains” awards.

Gov. Nathan Deal and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement released the list Thursday.

It was not all good news, however. Fair Street School in Gainesville found itself on the list of “chronically failing” schools.

East Hall and West Hall middle schools, along with Johnson High School, received “Greatest Gains” awards along with Gainesville Exploration Academy.

Renee Boatright, the principal at Gainesville Exploration Academy, said she’s proud of the staff at the school for the achievement in getting a bronze award for the progress the school is making.

“It’s a team effort,” Boatright said. “We look at the data, see where the weak spots are and strengthen those areas. ... Everybody has a different modality for learning. We find out what works best for that child.”

Boatright said that despite her elementary school having the second highest number of English language learners in the Gainesville school system, Gainesville Exploration Academy has also received “highest performing” awards from the state in the past.

Gainesville and Hall County school officials noted that the information released Thursday was based on College and Career Ready Performance Index scores reported last month.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Wanda Creel said the state simply took the CCRPI scores and attached a letter grade to them.

“We are proud that Gainesville Exploration Academy was placed on the (greatest gains) list and celebrate their accomplishment,” Creel said.

By the same token, Creel said Fair Street’s inclusion on the chronic failing list does not tell the whole story. She said Fair Street’s failing CCRPI score of 55.1 in 2016 is an improvement on the school’s score of 50.9 in 2015.

A school is placed on the chronically failing list after posting failing CCRPI score three straight years. In 2014, Fair Street had a score of 55.3.

“Fair Street has so many attributes that make it an exceptional school,” Creel added. “It’s a shame that labels might be placed due to a single rating. I encourage our community to visit Fair Street to see firsthand the wonderful work that is taking place in the classrooms, labs, cafeteria and in the halls daily. We encourage mentors to come and help us ensure that each child has the support that they need in order to be successful.”

Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield also would like the public to put the scores in perspective.

“We pay attention to these scores and always want to improve,” Schofield said. “However, as I have said for years, often our accountability measures take schools full of non-English-speaking, fragile children and assign to those schools a negative label.”

“We should be taking a long-range view and focus on how to ensure those students end up being productive community members,” Schofield continued. “In Hall County, we will continue to focus on graduation rates and programs which allow students multiple opportunities to participate in postsecondary training that will prepare them for the high-paying jobs of the 21st century.”

Kevin Bales, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, singled out the achievements of East Hall Middle (platinum award for greatest gains); West Hall Middle (silver award for greatest gains) and Johnson High (bronze award for greatest gains).

The state’s letter-grade report shows Hall County Schools with nine schools with B grades and another 14 with C grades. However, eight schools sported D grades and three schools had an F.

Bales said there are no Hall County Schools on the chronically failing list. He said struggling schools often are those with “high poverty and language acquisition challenges.”

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