MOULTRIE, Ga. – Overall scores and grades for Georgia schools fell in the 2018-2019 school year, causing Gov. Brian Kemp and state Superintendent Richard Woods to repeat their call to overhaul grading methods after the comparison was released last month.

Statewide, the overall scores on the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) dipped to 75.9 out of a 100-point grading scale, down from 76.6 points last year.

State officials say that only four districts and one charter school scored an A (scoring 90 or above) on the CCRPI. Among the state’s 10 largest school districts, eight of them saw their scores rise and two saw them fall. Also, 10 traditional districts and nine charter schools scored an F (scoring below 60).

Colquitt County’s schools saw improvement, though. According to the most recent information from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, Colquitt County scored 70.6, a C on the scale — up from 69.8 last year, which was a D. Colquitt County’s overall performance is higher than 37 percent of districts in the state, and 61.8 of its graduates are college and career ready.

According to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Marni Kirkland, readiness is a category on the CCRPI that counts 20% in the overall score.

“At the elementary level, the category consists of student achievement in literacy, student attendance and participation in ‘Beyond the Core’ subjects like fine arts. This past year the district moved up in each area in our overall elementary score (literacy +3.71%, student attendance +0.26%, and Beyond the Core +0.63%). The lowest category in this area is literacy in this category,” said Kirkland. “This part of the category represents the percent of students in grades 3-5 demonstrating reading comprehension at or above the midpoint of the College & Career Ready ‘Stretch’ Lexile Band for each grade level.”

The Lexile Framework is a system for measuring a student’s reading skill.

“In order to improve in this area, the district has applied for and received the L4GA literacy grants sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education (and backed by the USDOE),” she said.

According to Kirkland, the district is implementing intervention periods at all schools and adding reading supports for students in need of improvement in this area.  

“This past year the district moved up in each area in our overall middle school score in this category (literacy +1.81%, student attendance +3.21%, and Beyond the Core +0.18%). The lowest category in this area is literacy in this category; all schools are part of the L4GA grant initiative to improve literacy and push students into the highest Lexile range. This past year the district moved up in some areas in our overall high school score for readiness (literacy +6.05%, student attendance +1.60%),” said Kirkland.

According to Kirkland, in Readiness, the high school score also includes the percent of students in Dual Enrollment and Advanced Placement courses. She said fewer students were involved in this category as compared to other districts in the state. The high school Readiness category decreased in the areas of Pathway completion and College and Career Readiness (which counts students entering technical colleges or universities without needing remediation, Readiness score on ACT, SAT or AP assessments, and End of Pathway Assessments in addition to Work Based Learning participation).

The district has taken advantage of a strong tie to Southern Regional Technical College and Abraham Baldwin College as well as other regional universities to provide options for students, and the district is addressing issues with literacy in order to bolster post-secondary success, she said.

Overall, elementary schools in the county scored 70.5, middle schools scored 72.7 and high schools scored 69.3. This puts the county two points higher than 2018’s score of 68.9. Out of all the schools, Hamilton Elementary had the highest overall score at 84.3, while Colquitt County Achievement Center had the lowest score at 28.2.

“The district applauds the efforts of our schools that show consistent improvement,” Kirkland said. “Hamilton Elementary has an excellent staff; the teachers work hard each day to personalize instruction to meet the students’ needs. Hamilton’s CCRPI score is the result of a solid School Improvement Plan that was developed by the staff. They worked to base decisions on data and implement impactful action steps that moved students to high achievement levels.”

As for the Colquitt County Achievement Center, Kirkland said: “The Colquitt County Achievement Center’s score was a 28.2, which is an increase in that individual school’s score over the 2018 CCRPI. Over the past 2 years, the district has worked to revamp the structure and supports involved in the CCAC, which is an alternative school. As a result, the system has enveloped the CCAC into the high school programming. From this year on, the CCAC’s students will be served as part of CCHS in order to streamline communication between the institutions, provide more services to students in need, and ease transitions from one setting to another.”

Going forward, the CCAC will be considered a program within CCHS and its outcomes will become part of the high school’s performance, Kirkland said. It will no longer be judged as a separate school.

According to state Department of Education spokeswoman Meghan Frick, the reliance on test scores leads to pressure being placed on students. State Superintendent Woods called for a way to measure schools that relied less on standardized test scores but hasn’t yet made clear how he would accomplish that.

“The current CCRPI actually weighs the growth of students more heavily than the achievement level they acquire on the GMAS,” Kirkland said. “Student growth impacts 3/4 categories on the CCRPI. This move, in 2018 by GADOE, diminished part of the impact of standardized tests which previously prioritized the number of students who passed the test in comparison to the number of students who grew substantially from one year to the next.

“Assessment does take time each year, but the movement toward making data-driven decisions to personalize instruction requires assessment,” she said.  “Locally, we rely on screener assessments, progress monitoring tools, and common assessments on units to continually check student acquisition of the standards. If high-stakes testing by the state was reduced, it would open up some time during the school year for students to learn, but the usage of formative instruction is a research-based practice widely accepted as required in today’s classroom in order to move all children toward to fulfill their greatest potential.”

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