Originally created 11/17/00

Report card gives county's schools mixed grade



Columbia County had its ups and downs on a statewide report card released Thursday by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

Only one school - Lakeside Middle - was ranked among the top 20 schools in the state for its level. No Columbia County elementary or high school was in the top 20.

However, Columbia County schools continued to hold spots among the top five elementary, middle and high schools in the east Georgia region.

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation is a private, nonpartisan research and education organization and has released report cards for parents for the past five years.

The foundation's rankings for middle and elementary schools were determined by reading and math scores of students taking the 2000 Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Math and language-arts scores on the Georgia High School Graduation Test and graduation rates were used this year to rank high schools. The SAT was not used this year in the rankings because data on college preparatory students were not available.

Kelly McCutchen, executive vice president of the public policy foundation, said the report cards are intended to be guides for parents on how schools perform and how they improve from one year to the next.

"There are all kinds of questions," McCutchen said. "It's going to be typical for schools to move around. That's why we try to give them as much information as possible."

The report cards can be viewed at www.gppf.org.

Lakeside High School fell from the top 20 this year, dropping from 15 to 21 in the report card. However, it was ranked third in east Georgia behind Richmond County's Davidson Fine Arts Magnet High School and A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet High School. Davidson was ranked first in Georgia.

Richmond Hill High School in Bryan County and Savannah Arts Academy in Chatham County were fourth and fifth, respectively, in east Georgia.

Lakeside Middle School was ranked second in east Georgia and 16th in the state among middle schools. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School in Richmond County was ranked the top middle school in east Georgia and third in the state.

"Sometimes it's hard to really know what's valid and what's not," Lakeside Middle Principal Bill Morris said of the report card. "But in our case this past year we did enjoy much higher test scores than we ever had. I think it's because we had a talented group of kids and we have very hard-working teachers, and we did some things we'd never done before."

For example, more vocabulary and math drills were done to bolster pupils' confidence in their skills. Teachers also worked together more closely than they have in the past, Morris said.

Walker Magnet was ranked third in east Georgia and 18th among the top 20 middle schools. Riverside Middle was ranked fourth in the region, and Columbia Middle was ranked fifth.

Three Columbia County elementary schools filled the top five for the region - Blue Ridge Elementary ranked third; Riverside Elementary, fourth; and Greenbrier Elementary was ranked fifth. Oglethorpe Point Elementary in Glynn County and Bartow Elementary in Chatham County earned the top two regional spots.

Along with the rankings, the foundation also shows a poverty index in its report cards. The reports show the percentage of a school's population who qualify for federal free and reduced lunches and measures how the school performs, comparing expected test scores based on poverty rates to actual test scores.



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