COVINGTON — The Newton County School System’s high schools are outperforming state averages on a new accountability system, while its elementary and middle schools are lagging behind state performance.
The first-ever state College and Career Ready Performance Index that was released Tuesday scores schools and school districts on a 100-point scale.
The NCSS average score is 79 for elementary schools, 77 for middle schools and 77.1 for high schools. The state’s average score is 83.4 for elementary schools, 81.4 for middle schools and 72.6 for high schools.
The CCRPI replaces the No Child Left Behind’s Adequate Yearly Progress measurement in Georgia. The U.S. Department of Education granted Georgia’s waiver from NCLB last year.
The index has been designed around a comprehensive definition of college and career readiness, or the level of achievement required in order for a student to enroll in two- or four-year colleges and universities and technical colleges without remediation, fully prepared for college level work and careers, according to the state.
“I am very pleased that we now have a school improvement measure as in-depth as the (index),” said Superintendent John Barge. “We are no longer bound by the narrow definitions of success found in the Adequate Yearly Progress measurement. Holding schools accountable and rewarding them for the work they do in all subjects and with all students is critical in preparing our students to be college and career ready. The index effectively measures how schools prepare our students for success.”
A school and district’s overall score is made up of three major areas: achievement (70 points possible), progress (15 points possible) and achievement gap (15 points possible). Achievement is measured through scores from the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests at the elementary and middle school level and End-of-Course Tests at the high school level; progress is measured by comparing test results from the 2011-12 school year to the previous school year; and the achievement gap is measured by comparing last year and the previous year’s results between minority and nonminority subgroups.
“Overall our state scores are better than what we predicted just three years ago in terms of the former Adequate Yearly Progress grading system,” said Dr. Gary Mathews, superintendent of Newton County Schools. “This is a good starting point for us as a district under Georgia’s new accountability system, a starting point much superior to the predictions back in 2010 for our system.”
In addition to the three major areas, schools can receive Challenge Points to add to their score, up to 10 points. They receive these points if they have a significant number of economically disadvantaged students, English language learner students and students with disabilities meeting expectations.
Schools also can receive points for going beyond the targets of the CCRPI by challenging students to exceed expectations and participate in college and career ready programs, according to the state.
Individual elementary school scores range from nearly 64 percent at Porterdale Elementary School to nearly 96 at the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett. Middle schools range from nearly 74 at Cousins Middle School to nearly 82 percent at Liberty Middle. High schools range from 75 at Alcovy High to nearly 83 at Eastside High.
On a traditional grading scale, one NCSS school scored an A (the Theme School), seven scored a B, 11 scored a C and three a D. The Challenge Charter Academy received an F, or a 40.5 CCRPI; it is not governed by NCSS, and results were not calculated into NCSS scores.
Regionally, NCSS placed fourth in the Griffin Regional Education Service Agency at the elementary school level, behind Fayette County schools that scored nearly a 95, Henry County with nearly an 88 and Thomaston-Upson with an 86. At the middle school level, NCSS placed sixth, behind Fayette with nearly a 95, Pike with an 84, Henry and Butts with nearly an 84 and Thomaston-Upson with nearly an 80. At the high school level, Newton scored second in the region, behind only Fayette and nearly an 86, according to Mathews.
The Rockdale County Public Schools average score is 85.7 for elementary schools, 87 for middle schools and 67.6 for high schools.
Mathews reported Tuesday that all of NCSS’s 22 schools have shown a rate of improvement from 33 percent to 88 percent on CRCTs and EOCTs from the 2009-10 through the 2011-12 school years.
The theme school shows a 33 percent rate of improvement from the last two years, but he noted that the school already has a CCRPI of nearly 96 percent, so it’s hard to improve much more. Newton High School shows an 88 percent rate of improvement.
“The rates of improvement are really quite good, especially when you consider the very high population of academically ‘at-risk,’ or free and reduced lunch students, we have enrolled,” Mathews said. “Had we not experienced these rates of improvement over the last three years, our scores would have been much lower, likely dipping into the low seventies and sixties.”
The system’s free and reduced rate is about 65 percent.
He said that while the improvement is substantial, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
“The scores are still not where we want them to be. But if we continue with our upward trajectory on state results, I believe the school system can show even more progress going forward,” he said.
Mathews added that the current improvement can be tied back to the strategic framework that was set forth by the system three years ago, aimed at using researched-based instructional strategies in the classrooms, building background knowledge of students and integrating the use of technology in the classrooms, as well as forming professional learning communities in each school that study student data and intervene as needed.
Mathews added that the scores are not punitive — they dictate to the public how a school scores.
Also as part of the waiver, the state scores schools based on test scores and graduation rates and places them in categories like reward, priority, focus and alert schools. Schools that need improvement will offer flexible learning plans and programs for students to improve.
Beginning in 2013-14 school year, schools will also receive ratings based on their financial efficiency and school climate, but these ratings will be for the public’s information only and will not factor into the overall CCRPI score, according to the state.