Two state educational agencies recognized one of Bulloch County's public schools, Southeast Bulloch Middle School, on different lists of top-performing and high-gain schools for 2018, released in December.
The Georgia Department of Education named SEBMS to its list of Title I Distinguished Schools, while the Governor's Office of Student Achievement, or GOSA, designated the school a Silver Award winner for greatest gains in student achievement. Southeast Bulloch Middle was one of only two schools selected for these lists in a contiguous 10-county area.
Title I Distinguished Schools are those that rank among the top 5 percent of all Title I schools in Georgia in their most recent College and Career-Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, scores. Southeast Bulloch Middle School's overall 2018 score of 85.1, on the 100-point CCRPI scale, was the highest in the 15-campus Bulloch County Schools district and significantly exceeded the average CCRPI of 76.2 for middle schools statewide.
"We celebrate the work of all who support our students on a daily basis — our faculty, staff, parents, community partners, and awesome students — who support one another," SEBMS Principal Torian White, Ph.D., said in a Bulloch County Schools news release in December.
"We will continue to work with our awesome faculty and staff as we help our students learn, grow, and develop," he said.
Title I schools are those that qualify for funding for programs under Title I of federal law, generally because at least 40 percent of their students' families qualify as low-income.
The separate Governor's Office of Student Achievement awards are not specifically connected to Title I status. GOSA had conferred a Bronze Award on Southeast Bulloch Middle School in the "Greatest Gains" category in 2017. This was followed in 2018 by the Silver Award, also in "Greatest Gains," based on the school's CCRPI.
Among the 112 schools in 41 school districts that received "Greatest Gains" awards recognition were also some gold and platinum-level schools.
Meanwhile, 78 schools in 17 districts received "Highest Performing" awards, also in bronze, silver, gold and platinum categories. Georgia has approximately 180 school districts. Thirty-one schools in 12 districts are award winners in both categories.
The Georgia Department of Education released CCRPI results from the 2017–18 school year Oct. 29. Bulloch County's overall school district CCRPI score, a composite for schools at all grade levels, was 74.8, or 1.8 points lower than the overall state score of 76.6.
However, Bulloch County's combined CCRPI score for all of four middle schools, 78.5, exceeded the state average. But Southeast Bulloch Middle's 85.1 score and William James Middle School's CCRPI score of 80.8 clearly pulled up that countywide score, which is weighted by the number of students in each school. Scores for the middle school component of Portal Middle High School, 68.7, and for Langston Chapel Middle School, 69.6, were below the statewide middle school average.
With a composite, overall high school CCRPI of 75.8, Bulloch County Schools marginally exceeded the statewide high school score of 75.3. But of the three local high schools, only Southeast Bulloch High, with a CCRPI of 84.2, individually exceeded the statewide score. Statesboro High's CCRPI for the 2017–18 school year was 70.7, and Portal Middle High School's high school CCRPI was 70.8.
For elementary schools, Bulloch County's composite CCRPI was 72.7, lower than the statewide overall elementary school CCRPI score of 77.8. But three of the nine local elementary schools exceeded the statewide score, namely Brooklet Elementary School with a CCRPI of 79.8, Julia P. Bryant Elementary School with 81.9 and Portal Elementary School with 78.5.
Elementary schools with scores below the statewide CCRPI were Langston Chapel Elementary, 61.2; Mattie Lively Elementary, 62.2; Mill Creek Elementary, 68.3; Nevils Elementary, 75.5; Sallie Zetterower Elementary, 67.9; and Stilson Elementary, 75.2.
CCRPI is intended to measure individual public schools' and school systems' overall performance in four areas: academic content mastery, progress, closing achievement gaps, and readiness for the next level in school or, for high schools, their graduation rates.
The local CCRPI announcement noted that the state has changed benchmarks and calculation methods every year since the index was implemented in 2012, supposedly making year-to-year comparisons impossible. However, the state continues to judge schools on "progress" within the CCRPI and even awards "Greatest Gains" recognition.
The state Department of Education also released some other measures, including the School Climate Ratings, in October. Climate ratings are meant to reflect attendance, discipline and safe and drug-free learning environments and are also based in part on parent, student and school employee surveys.
None of Bulloch County's schools received top, five-star climate ratings. With Portal Middle High counted as two separate schools, 10 local schools received four-star ratings. Six schools — Langston Chapel Elementary, Mattie Lively Elementary, Mill Creek Elementary, Langston Chapel Middle, Southeast Bulloch High and Statesboro High — received three-star climate ratings.
The school system, in its October posted announcement of the school performance ratings, trumpeted increased graduation rates at all three high schools but identified lagging attendance as negatively affecting both school climate and academic performance.
Average daily student attendance was 90.5 percent for the county's elementary schools, 87.39 percent for the middle schools and only 80.31 percent for the high schools, according to the report from the previous school year. Nearly 12 percent of the district's more than 10,000 students had been chronically absent, with six or more unexcused absences for the year.
Announcements and data on the school ratings can be found at www.bulloch.k12.ga.us.