New data on Georgia's schools suggests the state's elementary and middle schools have improved during the last two years. But high schools haven't made the same gains.
Monday's report from the Department of Education is the second year of Georgia's homegrown ratings system for school performance, known as the College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI. 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.
"Many people have worked hard to make sure the CCRPI provides the most accurate, effective measure possible of the work schools are doing to prepare students for success," State School Superintendent Dr. John D. Barge said in a Monday news release. "This is an index that is both comprehensive and simple to understand, and it is an important component of our efforts to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for whatever they choose to do, whether that be going to college, joining the military or immediately beginning a career."
All schools and districts and the entire state are given a score on a 100-point scale. Up to 10 bonus points also are available.
A tool on the department's website lets parents drill down into the results of each measure at individual schools.
"CCRPI is very comprehensive and represents a wide spectrum of what I feel society expects of us in preparing our students for success in the world," Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson said in a Monday news release. "Accountability is sometimes viewed in a negative or punitive light but when it reflects what we should be doing anyway and is fair, we can move past the raw emotional reaction to new standards and expectations."
Statewide, Georgia's elementary schools received average CCRPI scores of 74.5 and 77.8 for the 2012 and 2013 school years. Middle schools scored 73.8 and 74.6, with high schools scoring 72.8 and 71.8 in those respective years.
In Bulloch County, the district's elementary and high school CCRPIs rose, while the middle school index dropped. Bulloch's middle and high school index scores were higher than the state CCPRI at those levels, while the state's was higher at the elementary level.
The state also calculated single scores for schools that had more grade levels than the traditional elementary, middle and high school configurations. The state's single score rose from 74.1 in 2012 to 75.8 in 2013, and Bulloch County's rose from 71 to 75.4, meaning Bulloch nearly closed the gap with the state overall.
At the school level, Brooklet Elementary had the highest score in the district at 89.5 in 2013 (10.5 points higher than in 2012), while Mattie Lively Elementary had the lowest, 63.2, but that still was 5.4 points higher than in 2012.
Sallie Zetterower Elementary posted the biggest gain, rising 16.9 points to 81.3 in 2013; Stilson Elementary had the biggest loss, falling 5.2 points to 69.
It is difficult to paint an accurate picture at Bulloch County's charter school, Charter Conservatory. That school, which is a public school serving grades six through 12 but is independent of the Bulloch school system, had too few high school students take End-of-Course Tests in 2013, so no comparison is possible with 2012 at that level. At the middle school level, Charter Conservatory's CCRPI rose 4.8 points to 76.1, higher than the state and district averages.
But the school's single score — a combination of middle and high school indicators — was only 34.8, down 34 points from 2012. It appears to have been hurt by some high school achievement indicators that are part of the index, such as low percentages of graduates completing a career pathway and who didn't require remediation upon entering a state technical college or university, along with a below-average four-year graduation rate.
The CCRPI replaces the "adequate yearly progress" ratings method created by the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. The state received a waiver from using that system and worked on its own for several years before launching to review the 2011-2012 school year.
But when the first results came out last May, educators complained of too much emphasis on current results rather than improving student performance from one year to the next. The scores released Monday try to address those concerns by putting more weight on improving performance, education officials said.
There's no benchmark dividing a successful school or district from a failing one in the index. Education officials said the 100-point scale allows parents to make their own judgments about what's acceptable.
The highly specific system makes it difficult to compare Georgia to other states' schools, or to compare schools here to their own performance before 2012. And more changes are on the way: the statewide Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests administered each year to third through eighth graders will be replaced by another based on Common Core standards.
About 137 school districts, including Bulloch County, improved their score from 2012 to 2013 under the new system, ranging from marginal increases in Fannin and Troup counties to a jump of more than 30 points at the Georgia Academy for the Blind.
About 59 schools were given lower scores for 2013 than the previous year.
The Associated Press and Herald Editor Jason Wermers contributed to this report.