Originally created 09/09/06

Schools face state discipline



With escalating consequences each year for not making yearly academic progress, three Richmond County middle schools have hit a new low.

State and local education officials are working out contracts with Glenn Hills, Morgan Road and Tubman middle schools because they have lingered on the needs improvement list for so long. They've been on the list every year since President Bush's program began.

Each year a school fails to make adequate yearly progress under the terms of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, it moves to the next stage of progressively more severe consequences. The three Augusta schools are among 11 in Georgia that have floundered to the point they are in needs improvement consequence year seven, meaning they must sign a contract with the state.

The contracts ensure schools are working toward goals for student achievement, said Wanda Creel, the director of the Georgia Department of Education Division of School Improvement.

The state department "isn't simply providing a contract," Dr. Creel said. State contract schools also are receiving other resources, including a state leadership facilitator. Additional funding might also be on the way.

Next week, the Georgia Board of Education could approve $160,000 for each Title I school on the list. All three in Richmond County are Title I schools.

"There's a great deal of support that goes along with this," Dr. Creel said.

Efforts also are being made to establish leadership teams within schools, and benchmarks are being given to schools so teachers can continually assess pupil progress and adjust quickly to their needs, she said.

There are also consequences, however, for schools that don't go along with the contract.

The Governor's Office of Student Achievement could conduct an audit of a school that doesn't adhere to its 45-day action plan or meet school improvement objectives, Dr. Creel said. If auditors deem it necessary, some or all funding could be cut and personnel changes could be recommended.

There have been no concerns expressed that state contracts with schools could turn into a state takeover, Dr. Creel said. The contracts are simply a means of making sure improvements are made.

"It is our most serious level of intervention under No Child Left Behind," Georgia Department of Education spokesman Dana Tofig said. "It is our highest level of intervention, our highest level of consequences."

There are no schools in the state experiencing any greater consequences, Mr. Tofig said.

When asked about the state contract schools earlier this week, school board member Ken Echols said he was unaware of the situation, calling it another example of the board being kept in the dark.

"I'm disappointed we have any, much less three," he said. "I'm worried if we don't refocus on academics we'll have more."

The Richmond County school board will discuss the contracts in committee Wednesday and could approve them Thursday.

"We just need to fix it," Mr. Echols said, calling for concrete plans for improving schools.

Calls to the Richmond County school system for comment weren't immediately returned Friday.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

GEORGIA SCHOOLS ON THE LIST


The Georgia Department of Education is entering into contracts with the schools listed because they have persistently failed to make adequate yearly progress.

School, School System


- Baker Middle, Muscogee County


- Crim High, Atlanta Public Schools


- East Hall Middle, Hall County


- Eddy Middle, Muscogee County


- Glenn Hills Middle, Richmond County


- MacIntyre Park Middle, Thomasville City


- Marshall Middle, Muscogee County


- Mitchell County Middle, Mitchell County


- Morgan Road Middle, Richmond County


- Stewart-Quitman High, Stewart County


- Tubman Middle, Richmond County

Source: Georgia Department of Education