On Georgia’s key measure of school performance, Bulloch County’s public middle and high schools scored higher in 2016 than in 2015, while the elementary schools, on average, scored lower, but that was also true of elementary schools statewide.
Although Bulloch’s scores on the College and Career Ready Performance Index remain lower than the state average at all three levels, the county’s composite score went up while the state’s went down. Six of the Bulloch County Schools’ 15 campuses – Brooklet Elementary, Julia P. Bryant Elementary, Nevils Elementary, Southeast Bulloch Middle, Portal Middle High and Southeast Bulloch High – outperformed the state averages.
But instead of finding points to brag about now, school system officials say their hope is for the 2016 CCRPI results to be seen as the baseline for improvement.
“I just think it would be fairer to let our schools reflect and dig into what went well, what didn’t go well, and to look at that in relation to the structures we have put in place in this district, and let them do the work they need to do to get ready for going forward. …,” Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson said Thursday. “This is the baseline year.”
In February, the Bulloch County Schools entered a five-year contract with the State Board of Education as a Strategic Waivers School System. In return for adopting goal-oriented school improvement plans, the district gets leeway on state rules limiting class sizes and the use of certain funds and requiring certified teachers, among other things. The schools are expected meet their goals or face consequences, and the contract specifies 2016’s CCRPI as the basis for comparison.
Overall, the goal is for each school to close the gap between its current score and 100 percent by 3 percent of the difference annually. But schools whose scores are in the top 25 percent statewide may not have to show that progress. The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement has now informed local school officials that it will send the specific targets for the schools in January, Wilson noted.
So, he and other Bulloch school officials are not going deep into school-to-school or year-to-year comparisons now. But the Georgia Department of Education did release the 2016 CCRPI results, including individual school results as well as overall results for school districts, Dec. 8.
The CCRPI , introduced in 2012, relies heavily on scores from standardized tests, now the Georgia Milestones tests, used since 2014-15. But the CCRPI also factors in separate numbers for improvement on the tests and for how well certain subgroups are doing, such as students with disabilities, from low-income homes or with English as a second language. To a lesser extent, graduation rates, attendance rates and participation in career guidance figure in schools’ scores.
Ups and downs
Bulloch County’s high school CCRPI score rose from 73 in the 2015 report to 73.9 in the 2016 report. The statewide high school score declined one-tenth point, from 75.8 to 75.7. Bulloch’s middle school score rose from 67.4 to 69.7, while the statewide middle school score rose from 71.2 to 71.5.
All of the scores are on a 100-point scale.
The Bulloch elementary school CCRPI was 70.6 in 2015 but 69.8 in 2016. The statewide elementary school CCRPI average dropped more steeply, from 76 to 71.7.
“These results point to the need for continued intensive focus on the foundations in early grades,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in the Georgia Department of Education news release. “However, I don’t believe the CCRPI captures all the great work happening in our schools. We have seen improvements and, in some cases, record results on the ACT, SAT, and in graduation rates.”
The ACT and SAT are college admission tests that do not factor in the CCRPI.
In the state averages, the combined CCRPI for schools at all three levels declined from 75.5 in 2015 to 73.6 in 2016. Meanwhile, Bulloch County’s combined score increased from 71 in 2015 to 71.6 in 2016. So, the difference between Bulloch’s scores and the state average shrank from four and a half points in 2015 to two points in 2016.
To be clear, the “2016” results released Dec. 8 are the results from the 2015-16 school year, and this is the second time this calendar year that CCRPI results have been issued. The “2015” results, from the 2014-15 school term, were released in May 2016, after delays and changes in incorporating results from the then-new Milestones tests.
“It is not possible to directly compare year-to-year CCRPI scores. The previous scores listed here are for reference only,” cautioned a local press release provided by Bulloch County Schools Public Relations Specialist Hayley Greene.
But links to the local and state scores were included, and she plans to update a summary on the school district’s website, www.bullochschools.org/testing. Reports for the state, the Bulloch County Schools as a whole, the individual schools and other school districts can be found at the state site, http://ccrpi.gadoe.org.
Comparing CCRPI results from year to year has been an apples-and-oranges affair.
Since the CCRPI’s introduction five years ago, the complex rubric of school performance data has changed every year, said Bulloch County Schools Executive Director for School Improvement Teresa Phillips.
“No, they haven’t been comparable just because the weights were different, so many things were moving around, and even when the weights weren’t different, the test itself changed, so you really have to keep all of those things in mind when you’re looking at the data, to get a true indication of what it’s telling you,” she said.
The main categories of indicators are “Achievement,” meaning the test scores themselves, worth 50 points, “Progress,” worth 40 points, and “Achievement Gap,” 10 points. Schools can also earn up to 10 extra credit Challenge Points.
From 2014-15 to 2015-16 there were no further changes in the weight assigned each category. The Georgia High School Writing Test, which had been a required indicator for high schools, was scrapped by the state. But other changes this year were minor, such as some things that had been available for extra credit being added as required indicators, Phillips said.
Although 2016 is the baseline for Bulloch County’s strategic waivers contract, the Georgia Department of Education considered 2015 the baseline year for the tests overall.
“This was the first year in a while you could do a year-to-year comparison,” GDOE Chief Communications Officer Matt Cardoza said in an email.
Bulloch County’s school superintendent said he would like to see some stability in CCRPI as the local schools move forward with their improvement contracts.
“Yes, I do hope that the indicators stay consistent and the weights of those categories stay consistent,” Wilson said. “I think that it would be good for everyone to be able to have a stable target for a little while. People need consistency, because they’re starting to get comfortable and to understand it and to learn how to adjust. So, hopefully things won’t move on us much.”
But how much stability there will be is hard to predict, Cardoza said, because the state Education Department is now drafting its plan to operate under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new overall federal education law. Woods also referred to the ESSA in the Dec. 8 press release.
“Through the process of developing Georgia’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, we are evaluating what changes should be made to our accountability system to better measure the overall achievements of our schools,” Woods said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.