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3 local schools to be Focus of extra help
Julia P. Bryant improves, emerges
W 071415 JULIA P files 1
Julia P. Bryant Elementary School fourth grader Jaidyn Sherrod, 9, center, demonstrates her multimedia project, "Facts about the Earth," to judges Michelle Giddens, left, and Sandi Neal during the Bulloch County Schools Technology Fair at Julia P. Bryant Elementary School on January 31, 2015.

Julia P. Bryant Elementary School has moved up and away from Georgia’s list of “Focus Schools” in need of extra support to better meet expectations.

But William James Middle School will remain on the list for a second three-year term, while Mattie Lively Elementary School and Langston Chapel Elementary School have been identified as Focus Schools for the first time. So, overall, the Bulloch County Schools went from having two Focus Schools to three in the list released Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Education.

The department identifies 10 percent of all Georgia schools participating in the federal Title I program as Focus Schools because they have low graduation rates or large gaps in achievement for students in various ethnic, language minority, special education or economically disadvantaged subgroups.

But these Focus Schools generally have better overall academic achievement than the worst-performing 5 percent of Title I schools, which are labeled Priority Schools. Bulloch County has no schools on the Priority list.


Julia P. triumphs

Julie Blackmar, principal of Julia P. Bryant Elementary, had by far the most positive news to tout in the news release provided by the Bulloch County Schools.

“I am very proud of our faculty, staff and students,” Blackmar said. “It has been through their perseverance and hard work that we were able to be removed from the list.”

In fact, Julia P. Bryant is now the second-highest performing elementary school in the Bulloch County system, as judged by the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI.

This is the second release of the lists since the CCRPI replaced Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, as Georgia’s school accountability tool in 2012.

The index takes into account state test scores, attendance and graduation rates, achievement gaps between different groups and progress schools make from year to year, among other factors.

Of Georgia’s 2,467 public schools, 60 percent are Title I schools. Title I is a federal program that provides funding to help improve the academic achievement of disadvantaged students. Thirteen of the Bulloch County School’s 15 campuses qualify as Title I schools, but Southeast Bulloch High School and Statesboro High School do not and are exempt from being listed.

In 2012, Julia P. Bryant Elementary had a significant achievement gap between its highest-achieving students and its special education subgroup based on 2009-2011 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test scores.

Over the past three years the school has put new, targeted teaching efforts in place, including remediation for underperforming students. These steps helped narrow that gap and improve the school’s Achievement Gap scores by more than 2.5 points, reported Hayley Greene, the school system’s  public relations specialist.

The school’s overall CCRPI score has risen from a low of 65.9 in 2012, which was well below the state average, to 78.4 and 75.7 in 2013 and 2014, matching and then exceeding the state CCRPI score for these years. CCRPI uses a 100-point scale.


William James stays put

William James Middle School had an overall 2012 CCRPI score of 84.1 when it was first named a Focus School. This was only a fraction of a point below the county’s middle school average of 84.8 at the time. But closing the achievement gap of WJMS student subgroups was and remains an issue, and meanwhile the school’s overall score has declined.

“We will continue to work diligently to address the academic gaps that exist between our subgroups,” said WJMS Principal Mike Yawn. 

William James’ overall CCRPI score dropped to 77.8 in 2013. In 2014, it dropped again to 71.3, the lowest among the school system’s four middle schools and lower than the district’s and state’s scores.

“We are thankful for the additional resources that are being provided locally as well as from the federal and state level to address our needs,” Yawn said.  “Moving forward we will have the human capital to operate a more thorough intervention plan.”  


Mattie Lively joins list

Mattie Lively Elementary achieved only two of 15 possible Achievement Gap improvement points on its 2014 CCRPI and had a three-year average of only 3.7 points.

Its overall CCRPI scores have varied from 57.8 out of 100 points in 2012 to 63.2 points in 2013, and 56 points in 2014.

Dr. Carolyn Vasilatos, newly named Mattie Lively interim principal, sees the Focus School designation as an “opportunity for the advancement of all students,” she said.

“We will develop the best plan possible to utilize the additional resources that will be provided to our school to improve student achievement,” Vasilatos was quoted in the news release. 


LCES ‘Focus’ too

Langston Chapel Elementary School had the district’s lowest Achievement Gap score, one point out of 15 possible points, and the second-lowest overall CCRPI score, with 57.1 out of a possible 100 points.

Ahead of being placed on the Focus list, LCES Principal Shawn Haralson and his faculty recognized areas of concern and began taking steps before the previous school term ended.

“Last year we began using small group instruction, remediation, and acceleration for all students to help them better retain information,” Haralson said.

Haralson’s leadership team changed class schedules to better accommodate small group instruction, and checked the students’ progress every two weeks, Greene reported.

To help lead the small groups, Haralson contracted with 13 “instructional specialists” — additional teachers — for five months, January through May. He also reached out to Georgia Southern University, which provided reading specialists, and First District RESA and the Georgia Learning Resources System to assist with further reading and writing interventions.

“For the upcoming year, we have a full remediation plan for in place for kindergarten through fifth grade,” Haralson said.

Each of Bulloch’s three Focus Schools are now required to seek input from parents. This will be used to create a Flexible Learning Program to improve achievement.

The Georgia Department of Education listed 165 Focus Schools and 81 Priority Schools statewide. The lists can be found on

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