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Hall Schools likely to move toward more scrutiny
Designation would also allow local schools more control
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A new term for accountability — and for more leeway for local schools — will be on the agenda for a public hearing tonight at the Hall County Board of Education meeting.

The system is moving toward a designation of “strategic waiver school system,” which will mean little to teachers in the near term, but it likely will lead to more scrutiny of individual schools’ results on the College and Career Ready Performance Index in the next few years.

“Check back in three or four years,” said Kevin Bales, director of middle and secondary education for Hall County.

He explained the new designation — which replaces Investing in Educational Excellence — is partly bureaucratic paperwork, but it also includes an increased focus on improvement on the CCRPI.

Making yearly progress on the CCRPI is one of the few “non-negotiable” aspects of making the application, he said.

Bales explained that the state is insisting that a SWSS contract require each school improve its CCRPI by 3 percent each year. As an example, if a school’s CCRPI score is 60, it would be expected to improve by 1.8 or 2 points the following year.

“Waivers have always been at the district level,” Bales said. SWSS will mean “we have to start looking at school by school. To have that conversation at a school level, that’ll be different.”

Requiring that school systems choose a “contract” with the state became law in 2008, but that was extended or changed, including a 2010 law that extended the deadline to 2015. The law designating system “SWSS” takes effect July 1.

“The system receives flexibility in the form of waivers of certain state laws, rules and guidelines in exchange for greater accountability for increased student performance,” the state Department of Education website says.

Hall County plans to ask for waivers in 23 areas. Those areas involve state law, state school board rules or both.

Bales said one typical waiver is for class size which Hall County has had for four years. He added that having a waiver, which allows for larger classes than required by state rules, does not mean the system would adopt larger class sizes.

He said the system has not had larger class sizes though it has had the authority to do so.

The SWSS provides for more decision-making at the local level, Bales said.

The recent changes in federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind law, means federal authorities are “tossing the ball back into the state court,” Bales said.

The state waiver designation would “toss that ball to the local school districts,” he added.

With the new designation, “we’ve still got to make sure kids get taught,” Bales said. “We don’t want to be just numbers-based.”

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