Under Georgia’s new accountability system revealed Tuesday, Richmond County schools lagged the state in achievement and Columbia County surpassed state averages for elementary, middle and high school performance.
The College and Career Ready Performance Index replaces the pass/fail Adequate Yearly Progress system used since 2002 with a formula that scores schools on a 100-point scale derived from an array of indicators.
Under the new index, Georgia scored 83.4 percent in elementary, 81.4 percent in middle and 72.6 percent in high schools for the 2011-12 school year. Columbia County earned 91.9 percent in elementary, 90.6 percent in middle and 84.7 percent in high schools; Richmond County scored 66.1, 65.5 and 63 percent, respectively.
Carol Rountree, Richmond County’s assistant superintendent of student services, said that although it will take time to adjust to the system, the index gives principals and educators a wider range of data to dissect and improve upon than AYP did.
She said many schools have already assigned staffers to monitor various pieces of the index so schools can make incremental improvements throughout the year.
“Yes, there is area for improvement,” Rountree said. “We would love to score at or above the state averages, but we also needed to know where we stood using this new measure before we can capitalize on all of our resources to make progress.”
Because the 2011-12 results released Tuesday are the first scores under the index and are vastly different from AYP, they are considered baseline data and can not be compared to past years, according to Georgia Superintendent John Barge.
“With AYP you either passed or you didn’t,” Barge said in a news conference Tuesday. “That was a very wide range, and this paints a clearer picture of where schools are in that range.”
Schools either met or failed benchmarks under AYP, but the index calculates a score made up of points from three categories: 70 points for achievement, 15 for progress and 15 for how well schools closed achievement gaps.
The index also offers up to 10 additional “challenge points,” given to schools having a significant number of economically disadvantaged students, English-language learners, or students with disabilities who are meeting expectations.
Under the achievement category, schools are given points on up to 19 indicators such as standardized test results, career awareness, attendance and graduation predictors.
Besides Richmond County’s two magnet high schools, which scored near 100 percent, Cross Creek earned the highest score among high schools, 64.5 percent. Glenn Hills showed the lowest score, 50.5 percent.
C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School led the district in elementary and middle grades with 92.8 percent and 91.7 percent, respectively. Freedom Park School had the second-highest score in elementary grades, 87.5 percent, and second-highest score for middle schools, 76.1 percent. Meadowbrook Elementary had the lowest elementary level score, 49.8 percent, and Collins K-8 had the lowest middle school score, 52.6 percent.
In Columbia County, 14 of the 31 schools scored in the 90 percent range, and none scored lower than Harlem High’s 74.8 percent.
Columbia County Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway said she was proud to see her schools score above the state averages but realized there is still progress needed.
Though the breakdown of a school’s index score is difficult to translate, it provides insight into specific areas that schools need to improve. Grovetown Middle School, for example, earned 81.3 percent, a celebrated score, but is still recognized by the state as a Focus School, meaning there is a large gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students.
Carraway said that shows a need for administrators to constantly improve on individual indicators and not just the final score.
Columbia County administrators are re-examining their scheduling habits now that they are being judged by a new measurement. Since the index awards points for the number of students who take and pass four core subjects, the district lost points because it doesn’t require ninth-graders to take a history course.
“These scores send amessage to our public, and we want these scores to keep our community proud and keep confident that their schools are doing well,” Carraway said. Still, educators said they viewed the College and Career Ready Performance Index as a more inclusive way to judge progress.
Georgia created the index after it became one of 10 states granted a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2012.
Before, schools and districts either met AYP or they did not, which critics said threw schools in unfair failing categories. High-achieving schools could miss AYP if just a handful of students from one subgroup did not pass state tests or missed a certain number of days.
Barge said it will take time to determine how much progress should be expected from schools every year because there are no benchmarks built into the index.
The state expects to release 2012-13 index results in the fall, which will give educators their first opportunity to compare progress from one year to the next.