How do schools in the Joint Development Authority (JDA) counties measure up? While many indicators exist to measure student performance, hard numbers lend a clear view of what is working and what is not.
Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton make up the counties in the JDA.
Better schools make better communities. They attract less crime, improve stability, decrease transience and enhance the quality of life for all. Better communities own the fortitude to say no to businesses they want to keep out and to recruit high quality industry.
According to Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education data businesses and industry look at achievement starting in grade three to make literacy projections for a potential workforce.
Based on the most recently available data from fiscal year 2011 the following reveals what is working and what needs work.
Of the JDA counties Morgan County boasts the highest graduation rate at 86.1 percent using the new cohort formula. Jasper comes in next at 75.5 with Walton County at 74.7. All are above the state cohort of 67.5. Newton's cohort graduation rate of 64.1 falls below all counties in the JDA as well as the state cohort of 67.5.
Further analysis of the rate by race shows black students in Morgan at 73.9 percent, Jasper at 64.7, Walton at 63 and Newton at 62.7. All are above the state rate of 59.8 percent for this group.
White students in Morgan hold a rate of 91 percent soaring above other JDA counties. Jasper County whites weigh in at 80.6 and Walton's white students have a rate of 77.7 -- all above the state average of 75.5. Newton's cohort rate for whites is 66.2 falling dramatically below the state average for this group.
Males in Morgan enjoy a cohort of 84.8 with females at 87.2. Male students in Jasper have a rate of 74 and females are at 77.1. Walton County males come in at 77.7 with the female rate at 79.8. These JDA counties weigh in above state averages of 63.3 for males and 71.8 for females. Newton County males have a rate of 61.8 with females at 66.5, both groups falling below the state averages.
On the American College Test (ACT) Morgan and Walton counties tie at 19.7 with a total composite of 36 possible. Jasper students have an ACT composite of 19.4 with Newton students at 18.4. All JDA counties fall below state and national averages on this indicator.
Morgan tops the English ACT scores at 19.2, Walton at 19.1, Jasper at 19 with Newton at 17.7. Math composites are as follows: Morgan -- 20; Walton -- 19.8; Jasper -- 18.8 and Newton at 18.3.
Morgan tops the SAT total score with 1489. Morgan is the only county to exceed the state average of 1431 and the national average of 1483. Remaining JDA counties lag the state and nation with Jasper at 1368, Walton at 1363 and Newton at 1330.
Bottom lines teach top dogs where change is needed. Naysayers will sling mud at numbers like these and argue to the core, but the preponderance reveals that it could be simply more prudent to exit the mud pile and get to work. And fast. Where would you choose to live based on current data?
Jeff Meadors is the District 1 representative on the Newton County Board of Education. Readers may email him at email@example.com.