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Bulloch, Ga. school report cards are worse
Officials: New standards affected results
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Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction, which will appear in Thursday's print edition. The Bulloch County school system concentrated its special-education programs at Mattie Lively Elementary and William James Middle schools last year, which could have affected those schools' College and Career Ready Performance Index scores. Because of incorrect information received, a front-page article Wednesday listed the wrong school as having the concentration of special-education programs.

In the third year of Georgia’s new school accountability system — “the Hubble Telescope of diagnostic tools,” according to the Bulloch County school system — the results trended downward.

This was not a surprise to state and local education officials.

The state Department of Education on Tuesday released College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, data from the 2013–14 school year. The index takes into account state test scores, attendance and graduation rates, achievement gaps between different groups of students and progress schools make from year to year, among a long list of factors.

Bulloch County’s news release, in using the “Hubble Telescope” term, noted that CCRPI looks “further and deeper than the Adequate Yearly Progress measurements it replaced, but providing data in a more easily understood 100-point scale.”

There is no benchmark dividing a successful school or district from a failing one in the CCRPI. Rather, education officials say, the 100-point scale allows parents to make their own judgments about what’s acceptable.

“In the past, we measured only on achievement,” Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson said in the release. “CCRPI is a much more appropriate diagnostic instrument for determining how well we are preparing each student for modern-day challenges.”

Statewide, the average CCRPI fell at all three levels. Elementary scores fell from 77.8 in 2012–13 to 72.6 in 2013–14; middle schools’ scores decreased from 74.6 to 73.2, and high schools dropped from 71.8 to 68.4.

“While decreasing CCRPI scores are disappointing, they are not unexpected,” State School Superintendent Dr. John D. Barge said in a news release. “This index is still relatively new and demands different areas of focus for our schools. Improvements will not happen overnight, but the CCRPI is giving them a roadmap to tailor an education that is student-centered and one that will ensure they are college and career ready.” 

Nearly every time a state adopts a new set of academic standards or tests, scores drop. Georgia implemented the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards beginning in 2013–14, and officials say more drops can be expected when the 2014–15 results are released as students adjust to a new test, the Georgia Milestones. Last school year was also the last time the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and End-of-Course Tests were given.

Bulloch County’s drops were steeper than the state’s. Elementary schools’ average CCRPI fell from 74.7 to 66.8, middle school dropped from 75.4 to 72.9, and high school decreased from 74.6 to 64.9. Moreover, the district had outperformed the state in middle and high school in 2013, but that was no longer the case in 2014.

“What is important is that we continue to hold ourselves to high expectations, hold ourselves accountable and keep moving forward with the foundation we are building,” Wilson said.

Among individual high schools, Portal High School had the district’s highest score for the third consecutive year, 75.2, which was down 2.3 points from 2012–13. Southeast Bulloch High scored 70.1, 5.5 points lower than 2012–13, and Statesboro High had a 63.1 CCRPI, down 8.6 points from 2012–13.

The school system announced in its news release that the scores for SEB High were incorrect and that it has made the state aware of the errors.

At the middle school level, Southeast Bulloch Middle led the way for the second consecutive year, with a CCRPI of 81.9, up 3.8 points from 2012–13. William James Middle School had the lowest index in 2013–14, 71.3, down 6.5 points from the previous year.

“My overall impression is that we are very good at the things we have always measured, namely the achievement calculations,” said Mike Yawn, the principal of Williams James Middle. “However, when you deal with the calculations for (individual student) progress and (achievement) gap closures, we need to look, systemically, for the high-impact strategies that lead to success.”

Among elementary schools, Brooklet Elementary posted the district’s highest index for the third consecutive year, 83.8, which represents a 5.7-point drop from 2012–13. Mattie Lively Elementary scored 56, down 7.2 points from 2012–13 and the lowest among Bulloch County elementary schools for the third straight year.

Also, Mattie Lively Elementary experienced a drop of 7.2 points to a 56 index in 2013–14, and William James Middle had a similar drop. Hayley Greene, the school system’s public relations and marketing specialist, explained that the state changed its method of counting where special-education students are housed.

Bulloch County had concentrated most of its special-education programs at Mattie Lively and William James last year. For the first two years of CCRPI, the state still counted these students in their zoned schools, but that changed in 2013–14. Now, all those students are counted as attending either Mattie Lively or William James, Greene said.

The system said in its news release that Wilson and the Board of Education have put “specific tools in place over the past two years to foster needed changes,” including focused planning, data analysis and professional development.

“It is a culture change toward continuous improvement,” Wilson said. “It is what our students need and deserve. Failure to address this with significant change would mean failure to our students, teachers and staff, and our community. We can’t let that happen.”

Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.


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