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JEFF MEADORS: Scorecard shows schools have much work to do

Report cards are out and PR machines are in full spin mode. State high schools continue to struggle; the scores dropped from 72.8 to 71.8. This is not the direction taxpayers want to see.

Could troublesome AP exam pass rates be partly to blame?

In last week’s edition I described the new annual school scorecard now in its second year. The new state average (2012-2013) released April 21, 2014 is 75.8. By triangulating new local system average scores, red performance flags (where state targets aren’t met), previously released indicators on Advanced Placement exam pass rates, HOPE eligibility, and SAT averages an overall picture begins to emerge on the health of Georgia schools based on a preponderance of evidence.

Locally Newton County’s high school average plummeted 9.2 points, from an adjusted 78.6 to 69.4, to dip below the state high school average. Alcovy High dropped 6.5 points from 75.6 to 69.1. Eastside High, the only Newton high school above the state high school average, increased 0.9 points to 81.1 while Newton High suffered an 8.6 point drop from 78.4 to 69.8. Newton’s high schools earned a combined 17 performance flags indicating targets were not met in 17 areas. Seven flags were in math.

Newton has a new district annual score of 75.2, an elementary average of 77.5, a middle school average of 76, and a high school average of 69.4. Based on the most currently published data by the Department of Education Newton has a 53 percent AP exam pass rate, an SAT average 101 points below the state, and 43.6 percent of Newton’s graduates are HOPE-eligible.

A picture of uneven performance emerges in a county where the Newton County Theme School earned a new score of 93.8 while Flint Hill and Livingston earned 69.1 and 69.9 respectively.

A similar pattern emerges in Newton’s middle schools. The Newton County Theme School earned the highest score in middle grades with a 99.6 while Veterans and Indian Creek scored 66.6 and 74.6 respectively.

Morgan has a new district score of 81.5. Morgan High earned a 75.5 with 17 performance flags five of which are in math. Morgan has an AP exam pass rate of 27.1 percent with an SAT average 58 points above Georgia and 6 points above the nation. Even still only 36.2 percent of graduates earn HOPE.

Oconee has a new system score of 87.5 with a high school average of 87.6. Oconee has one performance flag but no flags in content mastery. Oconee has an AP exam pass rate of 75.6 percent and an SAT average 140 points above Georgia. Georgia’s average dips below the nation by 52 points; 63.8 percent of Oconee’s graduates are eligible for HOPE money.

Rockdale’s district score is 76 with a high school average of 69.9 and 17 performance flags, five of which are in math. Rockdale has a 35.7 percent AP exam pass rate, an SAT average 80 points below the state, and 29.9 percent of Rockdale’s graduates are HOPE-eligible.

Expect a lot of numbers, adjusted numbers, and chatter about rates of improvement, yet the bottom line for most comes down to the school in one ZIP code. That score likely looms large for property values and return on investment.

Columnist Jeff Meadors may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com