Originally created 02/13/98

Report card gives good, bad marks



The third portion of an annual report card on Georgia schools shows Richmond and Columbia County high schools are doing better in some areas but worse in others, and ultimately ending up in familiar territory.

Statewide, more students passed the mandated high school graduation exam in 1996-97, said the Council for School Performance, which released reports for Georgia's 316 high schools Thursday. The council released elementary and middle school reports last month.

Overall, more students met the national median on the Scholastic Assessment Test and more earned HOPE scholarships, the council found statewide. But more students also needed remedial classes upon entering college.

"Mixed messages characterize the high school reports," said Gary Henry, council director, in a statement. "Our analysis shows both signs of improvement and declining performance."

Richmond County's nine high schools and Columbia County's four are proof of that.

No school had better than mixed results when the council examined two-year trends of academic scores on the graduation test, SAT, HOPE scholarships and number of students taking advanced placement classes. If a school improved in one area, it slipped in another and was stagnant in yet another.

For example, T.W. Josey High improved in the math and social studies parts of the graduation test but stayed the same on the English and writing portions. Josey lost ground on the number of its graduates needing remedial classes in college. Though among the bottom statewide, Josey ranked higher against similar schools than in previous years.

"But you're talking about being compared to the lowest, and your responsibility is to prepare students for the global world: What are you bragging about?" said Vivian Pennamon, Josey principal. "So I'm glad we are showing an improvement, but it's not our goal. Our goal is to make sure students can compete in the global world."

The council uses test scores and student attendance to compare high schools to schools with similar sizes and socioeconomic factors, and against each school in the state.

John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet, A.R. Johnson Health, Science and Engineering and Lakeside High rank among the state's best schools. Along with Josey, Lucy C. Laney High, Glenn Hills High, Academy of Richmond County and Butler High schools fall among the bottom ranks. Hephzibah High, Westside High, Harlem High, Greenbrier High and Evans High schools fall in the middle ranges.

Each school has its own plan for improving scores, particularly in Richmond County, where raising all test scores by 5 percent a year for the next two years is a countywide goal. At ARC, that plan includes intensive workshops and reviews for the college entrance exam.

"SAT is it. That's a real push," said Gerald Buckner, ARC principal. "And the graduation exit exam. Because it seems like that's what we are graded on, how we're compared to other schools, other systems."

The council's high school reports are available on-line at http://arcweb.gsu.edu/csp and includes links to the elementary and middle school report cards as well.