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Why state index is just one factor school leaders use to judge performance

Schools were graded on how much progress they’re making with specific groups of students in the latest scores released Monday, Oct. 29, by the state Department of Education.

The College and Career Ready Performance Index is Georgia’s annual tool for measuring how schools are doing to prepare students for the next educational level, and officials say it’s always changing, making it somewhat difficult to compare year over year.

With input from the public and a committee of educators, changes were made to expand the scoring to include more measures beyond standardized testing.

Scores this year were calculated with a new “Closing Gaps” component that rewards schools for making progress with specific student subgroups such as English learners, the economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities.

About 54 percent of the 29,000 students in Hall schools are considered economically disadvantaged, which means they may receive free or reduced-price school meals, for example; the number of English-language learners accounts for 27.5 percent of students; and 13.6 percent of students have disabilities.  

This indicator places more emphasis on improvement than overall performance, said Kevin Bales, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for Hall County Schools, which means one school might be doing better overall with these subgroups but scored lower than another school that is performing worse overall but made greater improvements in testing.

“I’m not sure we’ve got it exactly the way it needs to be with regard to that one indicator,” Bales added.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said that “excluding the addition of Closing the Gap, we performed similarly to previous years.”

In Gainesville, which has an enrollment of about 8,400 students, 100 percent are considered economically disadvantaged; 39.1 percent are English learners and 9.5 percent of students have disabilities.

The CCRPI average for all schools is 61.5; for elementary schools is 60.6; for middle schools is 54.8; and for high schools is 68.5.  

“Our students continue to grow academically and we continue to stay above the state average on the graduation rate,” Williams said. “Our initiatives with the (Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading in Georgia) grant and improved wraparound services will better support our student population in years to come.”

In Hall County, the average CCRPI score districtwide this year is 71.6. The score for elementary schools was 72; for middle schools was 71.6 and for high schools was 71.2.

Bales said Hall school officials were happy with the tight range of scores among its schools. For example, with the exception of the World Language Academy, each of the district’s middle schools scored within 10 points of each other. And each of the zoned high schools also scored within 10 points of each other.

The index is not necessarily a good evaluation of the Lanier College & Career Academy, a nontraditional Hall County school that graduates students year-round and prepares them for the workforce with trade skills, Bales said.  

“We didn’t have any school way away from where it should be,” he added.

And so CCRPI results become one of many measures Hall school officials use to gauge how students and schools are performing. Graduation rates, and SAT and ACT scores, are also important components, Bales said.

“We’re not too proud to say there are places where we need to see some improvement,” he added.  

The CCRPI calculations could continue to change in the years to come, as well.

For example, state law requires the use of a 100-point scale.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods has said he wants to have the Georgia legislature remove that requirement and reduce the weight of test scores in the CCRPI.

“We were able to preserve indicators that reflect the opportunities schools offer to their students, from advanced coursework to career education to fine arts and physical education,” Woods said in a press release. “But we can’t stop there. I believe strongly that the current 100-point scale vastly oversimplifies the complicated factors that influence school quality. The public — students, parents, and communities — deserve a wider and deeper measurement of performance that reflects our true mission: preparing students for life, not a test.”

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