Here are the answers to some common questions about Georgia's needs-improvement list for public schools released Tuesday and what it means for pupils and parents.
Q: What is a needs-improvement school?"
A: Any Georgia school that failed to make "adequate yearly progress," as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, for two years in a row is listed on the state's needs-improvement list. This year, 279 schools made the list.
Q: What is "adequate yearly progress," and how is it determined?
A: In Georgia, the state Criterion-Referenced Competency Test is used to judge pupil performance. In elementary and middle school, at least 60 percent of pupils must pass the CRCT reading and language arts sections and 50 percent must pass the math. In high school, 88 percent must pass reading and language arts and 81 percent must pass math.
Q: My child's school met those standards but was still listed as not making adequate yearly progress. How did that happen?
A: The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to consider scores for various groups of pupils, in addition to the average score of the entire school. The 14 groups include blacks, Hispanics, pupils with disabilities, pupils who speak English as a second language, males and females. If any one of those groups fails to meet the law's standards, the entire school is considered to be failing.
Q: What are my options if my child attends a needs-improvement school?
A: You have the right to transfer your child to a school with a better success rate on the tests. The school should send you a letter with at least two options. After three years of failing to meet progress goals, a school must offer free tutoring to pupils who stay. If your school falls into this category, you should receive a letter detailing the free help - which could be in-school lessons or a free pass to professional tutoring services such as Sylvan Learning Center.
Q: How do I get more information about the performance of my child's school, or about how to transfer to another school?
A: If you have access to the Internet, you can get details about your school's report at the state Department of Education's Web site, www.doe.k12.ga.us. Contact the administration at the school for more information. They should be prepared to answer questions about why the school is on the list. They should also be able to give you details about switching schools and other options available to you.
Q: What if I can't find my child's school anywhere on the list?
A: The state released information only on schools that receive federal money to help educate large numbers of needy pupils. These are the only schools that have been held to accountability standards for more than one year.