Ga. schools improving performance on federal law

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ATLANTA - The number of Georgia schools facing the stiffest sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law is decreasing, bucking a national trend, according to a new national report.

But the report from the Center on Education Policy says the drop could be because Georgia sets the bar too low for what is considered proficient. The report looks at schools undergoing restructuring - the final resort for schools that consistently fail to meet federal benchmarks.

The number of Georgia restructuring schools fell from 51 in 2004 to 46 last year. Other states examined in the report - California, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio - saw the opposite trend.

Georgia has been accused by several national groups for making state tests far easier than they should be. Groups like the Education Trust say students score much higher on Georgia's exams than they do national tests like the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

For example, one study by Editorial Projects in Education found that the rate of Georgia fourth-graders scoring at or above the proficient level in 2005 was more than 60 percentage points higher on state tests than on NAEP.

"Many states are struggling with this issue of how high they should set their standards, so Georgia isn't alone," said Jack Jennings, president of the Washington, D.C.-based CEP. "Georgia is trying to walk the line between raising standards and helping schools that don't do too well."

Dana Tofig, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education, said the state has been increasing rigor for the last few years by introducing a tougher curriculum and harder tests. But it takes time for that effort to yield results, he said.

"Obviously we have been raising standards across the board for several years," Tofig said. "I think the report is complimentary of the effort we're making to improve schools. We are trying to tailor. We don't want to do a one-size-fits-all approach to school improvement."

The No Child Left Behind law has a stepped approach to sanctioning schools that don't pass muster.

Schools that fail to meet federal benchmarks two years in a row are put on the national "needs improvement" list. After five consecutive years of not meeting standards - called "adequate yearly progress" - schools must create a restructuring plan.

That can include replacing administration and teachers, reopening as a charter school, having a state takeover of the school or entering into a contract with an outside group to run the school.

On the Net:

Center on Education Policy

Georgia Department of Education


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