Two Hall County schools have been named “alert schools,” according to the Georgia Department of Education.
Both Lanier Charter Career Academy and Tadmore Elementary School made the list, which was released by the state on Thursday.
Alert schools are public schools that demonstrate poor numbers in one or more subgroups and includes non-Title I schools.
Georgia instituted these new designations after the state was waived from complying with No Child Left Behind earlier this year.
The state also will designate priority schools, those that perform among the lowest 5 percent, and focus schools, those Title I schools with the largest achievement gaps.
LCCA was a graduation alert school because of low graduation numbers compared to state averages.
Tadmore was a subgroup alert school because the white subgroup, made up of 31 students or about 5 percent of the school, did poorly on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test when compared to state averages.
Schools placed on the list were at or below the third deviation in their individual needs area as compared to the state average.
“It seems a little unfair, but it’s not something we’re surprised about,” said Robin Gower, Tadmore principal. “We know where our deficits are. We are an economically disadvantaged school.”
She said about 95 percent of the school gets free or reduced lunch and only about eight of the 31 in the white subgroup did very poorly on the CRCT.
Those students, she said, had a substantial number of absences. The data were taken from the previous school year and are used at the state and federal level as a benchmark to rate schools under the new performance index: the College and Career Ready Performance Index.
“It’s really hard for me to look at last year’s data knowing we’ve already used that to develop a school improvement plan and we’ve worked on improving those areas already,” said Gower.
Tadmore has been named as a Title I Distinguished school because of current data.
“To say we’re both a Title 1 Distinguished school and an alert school at the same time tells you what you can do with statistics,” she said.
The system’s leadership does not see the label as surprising or concerning.
“It’s not terribly surprising and it’s not terribly concerning,” said Will Schofield, superintendent. “A year later, which would’ve been the most current year’s test scores, they were a Title I Distinguished school. So, I think too often we take a snapshot and start to try and make generalizations when there is just not a whole lot to be gleaned from it.”
LCCA is a nontraditional school, meaning it takes students from county high schools who may be struggling in a traditional medium.
The school is meant to provide them a launching point into the working world or a second chance at a high school diploma.
Having low graduation rates and being placed on the alert list came as no surprise.
“That was absolutely no surprise to us,” said Schofield. “We’ve made no bones about the fact for five or six years that we don’t have the resources to try and provide programming for children who have kind of checked out of traditional school. We encourage those children to get to Lanier Career Academy and, at the very least, have a fighting chance to get their GED and maybe work on some industry certifications, but for crying out loud don’t leave us without anything.”
Schofield says the list won’t change the system’s approach to education and it will still look for ways to change the idea of traditional schooling.
“We just need to expand the opportunities for children who just aren’t all that crazy about traditional school,” he said. ”This one-size-fits-all, lockstep model that we expect teenagers to walk through whether they have any interest in it or not has never worked very well, but probably with this digital age works even less.
“I think we’ll be amazed about how children approach school if they can spend at least part of the day doing something they have a God-given interest in and a passion for.”
Gower says she hasn’t received much information from the state on exactly why her school made the list outside of the problem with the white subgroup, but says the school already has identified areas of deficit and is implementing ways to fix them.
“We are aware of the deficits and we are working as best we can to overcome those,” said Gower. “We already have some things in place and we’re improving in those areas.”
There are many steps the focus schools must make after being identified, including implementing a flexible learning program, setting aside money for professional development and developing a school improvement plan.