School leaders said they are glad more factors are being considered in rating schools, but the scores released Tuesday still don’t paint an accurate picture of what’s going on in schools with high numbers of students learning the English language.
The College & Career Ready Performance Index rates schools on a 100-point scale, and the brand-new model this year is functioning as a new lens to look at old data, giving schools an opportunity to see how it works without any consequences.
The new index is made up of 73 indicators of how a school is performing, and it replaces Adequate Yearly Progress, which judged schools on seven factors mostly related to test scores and gave schools a pass or fail grade. It was part of the No Child Left Behind Act, from which Georgia received a waiver in February 2012.
About 85 percent of the schools in the Hall County system scored in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Some elementary schools scored lower, though. Chicopee scored a 66, Lyman Hall a 54.8, Oakwood a 59.8, Tadmore a 66.5 and White Sulphur a 57. Nontraditional high school Lanier Career Academy scored a 48.4.
Most elementary schools in the Gainesville system scored in the 80s, except for Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, which scored a 58.3. Gainesville Middle and High schools scored in the 70s. Nontraditional high school Wood’s Mill Academy scored a 42.3.
Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said the new index provides more information but still doesn’t give a good picture of the growth of individual students.
“The results tend to be an, unfortunately, accurate predictor of the makeup of the student body,” Schofield said. “The new CCRPI, while a positive step in the right direction, will not reflect well upon districts that have large numbers of English language learners and other challenging groups of children.”
Robert Wilson, principal at Lyman Hall, said his school will continue to work on building the students’ vocabulary and reading skills. With 97 percent of the students Hispanic, some 65 percent are learning English. And 98 percent of students are on free or reduced-price lunch, an indicator of the poverty level there.
“(The index) doesn’t adequately capture student growth from year to year, but we are disappointed with our score,” Wilson said. “We feel like we’re making strides to get better and to make sure that we’re making progress toward this new accountability system. Obviously we’ve got a little ways to go.”
Robin Gower, principal at Tadmore, commended the new index for giving more information than just a pass or fail score, like what was given with AYP. She, too, though, said the scores seemed to correlate with schools that have many English language learners. Tadmore is about 90 percent Hispanic, with about 70 percent of those students still learning the language.
A big focus for her school will be improving math scores, she said, where the English vocabulary involved has been an issue.
“The thing that we want to do more than anything is give the children everything they need to be successful,” Gower said.
Kevin Bales, school improvement specialist at Hall County Schools, said the system is looking at the data as a baseline from which the schools plan to improve.
At the same time, he’s not sure the assessment of the schools with high numbers of English language learners is really fair.
“We readily acknowledge that all of our schools seek to improve, so we’re not going to make excuses,” Bales said. “It’s going to be more of a process of working to post the highest numbers possible in schools that have those types of demographics.”
Gainesville school officials echoed those sentiments.
Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the city school system is being compared to the state, but its student demographics do not mirror the state. The system has one of the highest rates of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. It also has high numbers of students learning the language.
Dyer said the mobility of students in the school system, those who come and go from a particular school, can also lead to lower scores. Fair Street’s mobility is between 33 and 36 percent, she said.
She and Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction for Gainesville, also noted the data is based on test scores that are 11 months old.
“The expectations that we were living under during that time, they’ve changed those expectations,” Moore said. “So they’re looking at it with new rules.” For example, the old system did not look at science and social studies scores, but the new one does.
Fair Street principal William Campbell also lamented that the data is old and now being repeated with the new index.
“We’re aware of our results, and we will do better,” Campbell said. “And we anticipate this year’s scores looking better, us making improvements from last year.” He said the school has been working to improve in all subject areas.
Fair Street has almost 70 percent of its students designated as English language learners. Campbell said the school has challenges, but he did not want to make excuses. He also said the new index still relies too heavily on standardized test scores.
Dyer said these index scores are just a first look, and she’s curious whether they will indicate if students are more ready to move on to college or a career, which is the goal of the index.
“This gets especially more meaningful as it goes forward and we know what they’re looking for and we’re able to plan accordingly,” Moore added.
Both said the new accountability system does give more information for planning, and they’ve already found that they’d like to see more improvement on reading scores. The new system also raises the bar, Dyer said.
The new index is broken down into a few categories. Achievement is weighted at 70 percent of the score, progress at 15 percent and achievement gap, or the difference between well-performing and underperforming groups, at 15 percent.
Achievement is then further broken down and measured on three factors: 40 percent of the score is based on how well students master the content, as shown in test scores; 30 percent on how ready they are for the next level; and another 30 percent on graduation rate or a predictor of that rate for lower grades.
Schools also can earn up to 10 bonus points for the achievement of economically disadvantaged students, those learning English and those with disabilities, as well as points for going above and beyond, such as more students passing world language or fine arts courses in elementary school; schools participating in charter programs; percentage of high school students taking college entrance exams; and students completing career-related programs or choosing career pathways, among many factors.
“This is a ‘study year,’ and we all have a lot to learn as we implement this new reporting index,” Schofield said.
Bales noted that responses from those within the schools have been widespread, from cautious optimism to concern about the community response.
“But, like I said, I think for the most part people just realize it’s a baseline number and we grow from here,” he said.
Hall County Schools
- Chestnut Mountain Elementary School: 81.4
- Chicopee Elementary School: 66
- Flowery Branch Elementary School: 81.2
- Friendship Elementary School: 90.2
- Lanier Elementary School: 82
- Lula Elementary School: 77
- Lyman Hall Elementary School: 54.8
- Martin Elementary School: 77.3
- McEver Elementary School: 71.6
- Mount Vernon Elementary School: 87.1
- Myers Elementary School: 71.8
- Oakwood Elementary School: 59.8
- Riverbend Elementary School: 77.7
- Sardis Elementary School: 71.6
- Spout Springs Elementary School: 85.6
- Sugar Hill Elementary: 77.4
- Tadmore Elementary School: 66.5
- Wauka Mountain Elementary School: 82.2
- White Sulphur Elementary School: 57
- World Language Academy: 82.1
- Chestatee Middle School: 79.2
- C. W. Davis Middle School: 83
- East Hall Middle School: 85.3
- North Hall Middle School: 84.5
- South Hall Middle School: 73.5
- West Hall Middle School: 76.5
- World Language Academy: 93.4
- East Hall High School: 71.8
- Flowery Branch High: 79.4
- Chestatee High School: 78.7
- North Hall High School: 86.5
- West Hall High School: 76.4
- Johnson High School: 73.7
- Lanier Career Academy: 48.4
Gainesville City Schools
- Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy: 82.9
- Centennial Arts Academy: 86.5
- Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School: 58.3
- Gainesville Exploration Academy: 82.9
- New Holland Core Knowledge Academy: 84.7
- Gainesville Middle School: 76
- Gainesville High School: 74.6
- Wood’s Mill Academy: 42.3