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Statesboro STEAM sees increase in CCRPI scores
Charter school outpaces others in Bulloch County
Steam Academy
Steam Academy

Statesboro’s “other” public middle and high school, state-chartered Statesboro STEAM, has achieved Bulloch County’s highest overall school score on the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI.

That is precisely the kind of performance the school needs to maintain its charter over the long run, Statesboro STEAM Principal Corliss Reese indicated in an interview Tuesday.

“For us to have the contract, we are expected to outperform Bulloch County in order to stay open,” he said. “That’s one of the caveats to being a charter school: You have to outperform your home district.”

As a charter school with its own board, Statesboro STEAM receives state funding based on its enrollment but no share in local taxes levied by the Bulloch County Board of Education. However, charter schools’ performance is gauged using the CCRPI, just as with county systems such as the Bulloch County Schools and unlike private schools.


Top in state too

As shown in the Georgia Department of Education’s list, Statesboro STEAM, for the 2018-19 school year, also had the highest CCRPI score of any state-chartered public school with grades 6-12 in Georgia.

Two state-chartered schools that have only elementary grades and one school that somehow had students in only kindergarten, first and seventh grades, attained higher scores than Statesboro STEAM’s overall 82.0. But these schools are not directly comparable to Statesboro STEAM, which has only grades 6-12 and so is a middle and high school.

Reese attributed the success to “just hardworking students and teachers.”

“Our teachers are very dedicated to the students, they spend countless hours sometimes tutoring and remediating students where they need to be remediated,” he said. “They are very well attuned to what the students’ needs are, so most of our teachers will build individual plans for students that they realize might be struggling so that those students can fill in those gaps.”


Mostly Milestones

Reported using a 100-point scale, the CCRPI is based heavily on scores from the Georgia Milestones Assessment System tests. Content mastery, progress and “closing achievement gaps,” all rooted in the test results, add up to 80% of middle school CCRPI and 70% of high school CCRPI.

A factor called “readiness,” which includes whether students are completing courses beyond the core and receiving guidance to prepare them for college or careers, accounts for 20% of middle school CCRPI scores. For high schools, readiness makes up 15%, and graduation rates make up another 15%.

Statesboro STEAM’s 2019 overall score of 82.0 is substantially higher than the Bulloch County Schools’ overall score of 73.7 and the statewide score of 75.9. But the overall county and state scores include elementary schools, and so may not be comparable.


In comparison

Looking just at the high school CCRPI, Statesboro STEAM’s score was 84.7 for its 96 students in grades 9-12 last year. The Bulloch County school system’s overall score for its far larger number of students in three high schools was 74.3. The statewide high school score was 77.0.

STEAM’s high school score was higher than Southeast Bulloch High School’s 79.0, Portal High School’s 71.3 and Statesboro High School’s 71.2. “Portal High School” means grades 9-12 at Portal Middle High School, counted separately for CCRPI purposes.

Statesboro STEAM’s middle school score of 79.2 is also higher than the Bulloch County system’s overall middle school score of 70.6 and the state score of 72.1. But one of the county system’s four middle schools, “Portal Middle School,” grades 6-8 of Portal Middle High counted separately, attained a CCRPI of 81.5, besting Statesboro STEAM.

Statesboro STEAM, with 91 middle school students, and Portal Middle High, with 204 students in grades 6-8 last March, are also the two smallest public middle schools in Bulloch County.

The previous year, 2017-18, Statesboro STEAM’s overall CCRPI score was 70.1; its middle school score was 70.2; and its high school score was 70.0. That year, STEAM’s scores were significantly lower than the Bulloch County school system’s, which were 78.5 for middle schools, 75.8 for high schools, 72.7 for elementary schools and 74.8 overall.

“Our high school has consistently performed well on the CCRPI throughout the years,” Reese said. “Last year (2017-18) was probably their lowest year. They had a dip last year when the calculating changed.”

The Georgia Department of Education insists that only the last two years’ sets of CCRPI scores are comparable, as he acknowledged. The state changed how factors in the CCRPI are counted before the 2017-18 scores were determined.


Special needs students

Statesboro STEAM has a higher percentage of students with disabilities, 18.2% of its total student population, than the Bulloch County Schools, which had 15.3% students with disabilities in 2018-19, according to data included with the CCRPI. This is one of the subgroups for which schools are expected to “close achievement gaps.”

“Our special education population is larger than the state and the district, so we have to put in special measures to ensure that our special education students are getting the quality education they need at the same time,” Reese said. “This year our special education population outperformed their targets that the state set for them.”

Statesboro STEAM also surpassed the state target for economically disadvantaged students.

Students from economically disadvantaged households made up 55.1% of Statesboro STEAM’s population but are a larger portion, 61.3%, of the Bulloch County school system’s population.

Individualized attention, with a pupil-teacher ratio of about 15 to 1, is one factor that makes Statesboro STEAM attractive to some parents, Reese said.

But the charter school has no regular bus system, so most families provide their own transportation. The school does have a process to assist families experiencing a transportation hardship using its mini-bus, otherwise reserved for activities or dual-enrollment students.


Climate Star

The state Department of Education released schools’ Climate Star ratings Oct. 25, along with the CCRPI. Based on surveys of students, parents and school employees plus data on disciplinary actions, substance abuse and attendance, Climate STAR ratings do not factor into the index.

“We also ended up having the highest climate rating in the county as well, a five-star climate rating for the fifth year in a row,” Reese noted.

Meanwhile, each of the Bulloch County system’s schools received either a four-star or three-star rating.

With a five-year charter renewed in July 2016, Statesboro STEAM College, Careers, Arts and Technology Academy is full at its current campus, a converted commercial building on Northside Drive East. Its leaders want to maintain an enrollment of 175 to 180 while exploring the construction of a new building, Reese said.

The school was pushing those limits with 187 students reported in the 2018-19 CCRPI and maintains a waiting list of about 200 potential students, he said.

Limited to Bulloch County residents and with priority given to the Statesboro attendance zone, enrollment is through an open application process, not based on achievement. A lottery is used to determine who gets in when applications exceed seats at each grade level.


Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.


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