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Georgia school grades fall
Officials call for changes
Superintendent Richard Woods

ATLANTA — Overall grades for Georgia's schools fell in the 2018-2019 school year, with Gov. Brian Kemp and state Superintendent Richard Woods repeating their calls Friday to overhaul grading methods.

Scores for all students statewide were 75.9 points on a 100-point scale, down from 76.6 points last year. Performance rose in high schools, but fell slightly in elementary schools and more broadly in middle schools.

Georgia's system, called College and Career Ready Performance Index , seeks to grade schools on student content mastery, academic progress and readiness, whether underperforming groups are closing gaps, and whether high school students graduate on time. This was the second year for the current scoring system after an overhaul.

State officials say scores fell because of lower scores on progress and closing gaps.

The state Department of Education doesn't calculate letter grades, but the Governor's Office of Student Achievement does. Under those grades, only four districts and one charter school got an A for scoring above 90 on the measure, including the 47,000-student Forsyth County district north of Atlanta. On the other end of the spectrum, 10 traditional districts and nine charter schools got an F for scoring below 60, including 29,000-student Richmond County, which includes Augusta.

Among the state's 10 largest school districts, eight saw scores rise, while two saw scores fall.

Woods and Kemp, fellow Republicans who have been working together on many education issues, say they want changes, noting that grades fell even though scores rose on the statewide Georgia Milestones standardized tests that underpin most of the grading scale.

"I am a strong supporter of holding schools accountable for increased student achievement, but in a year when we've seen nearly across-the-board increases in national test scores and graduation rates as well as Georgia Milestones scores, seeing the CCRPI show a decrease instead raises concerns," Kemp said in a statement.

Woods again called for a way to measure schools that relies less on standardized test scores.

"That reliance on test scores leads to pressure being placed on students and reinforces that high-stakes model of student testing," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Meghan Frick.

Woods hasn't made clear how he would lessen the use of test scores.

Frick pointed to the gap-closing measure as one that might be problematic. A school or district has to cut the share of non-proficient students in each of more than two-dozen subgroups representing students such as African Americans, special education students and English language learners to get full credit. Middle schools, particularly, struggled with that measure this year.

But Dana Rickman, director of policy and research at the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said it's important to have a window into whether a district that's high-achieving is struggling to educate some students.

"That is the only place among all the measures that we hold schools accountable for subgroup scores," she said.

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