The so-called “Focus Schools” are one step above the state’s worst performing – called “Priority Schools” – which were revealed last week.
Georgia was one of 10 states to win waivers in February from the federal No Child Left Behind law. To earn that relief, state officials developed the Career Ready Performance Index to gauge school achievement.
These ratings are alternatives to the law’s controversial Adequate Yearly Progress standard, which deemed a school or district failing if it fell short on even one measure in a numerous list. Those benchmarks, largely based on test scores by students and subgroups of students, have risen significantly since the law was passed in 2001 and reach 100 percent by 2013-14. The Obama administration offered states the opportunity to apply for waivers from No Child Left Behind but required they develop alternatives to AYP as a way of measuring how well schools are educating students.
The “focus” list identifies middle and elementary schools with the largest performance gaps between subgroups on such exams as the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, given during the 2010-11 school year. Subgroups can be determined by race, special needs and family income.
High schools make the list if they have graduation rates less than 60 percent over the past two years.
In Columbia County, Cedar Ridge Elementary and Grovetown Middle schools were named. In Richmond County, Lake Forest Hills Elementary, Langford Middle, Academy of Richmond County, Murphey Middle and Tutt Middle schools were on the list.
While state officials refine the index, federal officials required them to use such labels as “focus” schools to identify poorly performing schools.
Schools on the list must offer tutoring services, professional development and other programs to overcome their deficiencies, said Matt Cardoza, a state education department spokesman.
Michele Sherman, Columbia County schools’ director of elementary education, said local officials still are waiting to find out which subgroups need improvement.
“We don’t know why they were chosen,” she said.
State officials are developing a “calculator” to help schools determine in what areas they failed to adequately perform, Cardoza said. It might be available next week.
The other designations for Georgia school performance are “Alert Schools” and “Reward Schools.” All designations will be handed out by the fall.