The Bulloch County school system invites parents and guardians of Julia P. Bryant Elementary and William James Middle school students to a community forum next week.
It is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 15 at Julia B. Bryant, 421 W. Main St.
The forum will allow discussion of a Flexible Learning Program. Administrators will outline how the program will address these two schools' needs and provide parents and guardians an opportunity for feedback.
The program is designed to improve student achievement by offering academic assistance. Faculty will use tutoring, remediation and other educational interventions to increase the academic achievement of students within both schools.
William James and Julia P. are two of 156 schools identified in March 2012 by the Georgia Department of Education as Focus schools because of either low graduation rates or gaps in achievement between student subgroups.
The two Bulloch County schools were designated as Focus schools because they need to narrow the achievement gap between each of the school's highest academic achievers and their special education subgroups based on Criterion-Referenced Competency Test results for 2009-2011.
Focus status is one of four new accountability designations for the state's Title I schools. Focus schools are the 10 percent of schools just above the lowest designation, Priority. These new accountability designations (Priority, Focus, Reward and Alert) are part of Georgia's Elementary Secondary Education Act waiver that was approved by the U.S. Department of Education in March 2012.
Georgia was part of the first wave of 10 states granted waivers by the federal department. Since then, the number of states granted federal waivers from ESEA, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act, has risen to 39.
While No Child Left Behind, the signature education initiative of President George W. Bush's administration, was praised for holding schools accountable for all students' achievement by tracking subgroups, it also was criticized for its "all or nothing" approach to counting a school as passing or failing. The waivers, granted under President Barack Obama's administration, are an attempt to provide flexibility while efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act have failed for the last six years.
Thirteen of Bulloch County's 15 schools are Title I designees, with the exception of Statesboro High and Southeast Bulloch High. Title I money is federal funding given to schools with high concentrations of students living in low-income families.
Criteria for placing schools in the first three categories, Priority, Focus, and Reward were set by the federal education department. The state set criteria for the Alert list. With this new accountability tool, schools — except those in Alert status — will be assessed every three years, rather than annually as they were under No Child Left Behind.
These designations replace the No Child Left Behind categories of "meets" and "does not meet" what the sweeping education law referred to as "adequate yearly progress." The Priority designation is comparable to "does not meet." If Georgia were still under the AYP standard, every school that receives Title I funds would have been required to have 100 percent pass rates, starting with this school year, on state grade-level reading and math to meet AYP. Otherwise, if even only one student did not pass one of those tests, the school would have been designated "does not meet," or essentially, failing.
For more information about the event or each school's Focus designation, contact either Julia P. at (912) 212-8680 or William James at (912) 212-8820.