Originally created 08/08/03

Schools plan to appeal report



If she could, Principal Bequette Coar probably would send state education officials to the principal's office and make them sit in the corner.

That's how angry she is at their report placing Monte Sano Elementary School on a stigmatizing list of needs-improvement schools in Richmond County.

"My school has never been on the list. We have worked hard and made huge achievement gains," Ms. Coar said.

As Richmond County educators race to finalize school choice before class starts Tuesday, they are also planning to challenge the state Board of Education on its data. Many schools were placed there with questionable data, Superintendent Charles Larke said.

At Monte Sano, for example, pupils exceeded testing goals. The report says, though, that only three of 10 disabled pupils were present for the testing, making the school fail the 95-percent participation rule. Ms. Coar insists they had 100 percent participation for testing and have just three disabled pupils.

Someone incorrectly typed in 10 and skewed the report, she said. "I think it's a data-processing problem."

Dr. Larke said nine schools met testing goals but had attendance problems that the district is reviewing for errors.

Appeals in other parts of Georgia led state education officials to remove several schools from the list.

In Richmond County, it could help soothe the sting from a list that named 74 percent of Title I schools as needs-improvement schools, one of the worst rates in the state.

Also Thursday, school officials continued efforts to prepare for school choice at 13 of those schools. The federal No Child Left Behind law requires states to identify schools with weak test scores and to offer parents other schooling possibilities.

Spokeswoman Mechelle Jordan said letters have been sent to 200 elementary school parents who applied for choice.

"We plan to be ready to get these kids where they need to be on the first day of school," she said.

As the district scrambles to arrange transportation on nine buses, other letters are being prepared for the remaining parents who applied, but Dr. Larke said it is possible some may not get their choice until after school starts.

"Some of them may spend three or four days in their zoned school until choice is implemented for them," he said. "It's just the nature of the beast."

The Georgia Department of Education must decide whether to remove some Richmond County schools from the needs-improvement list if they were placed on the list because of flawed data.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.