A half-dozen midstate schools made Tuesday’s list of underperforming Georgia schools that are classified as “alert schools” by the state’s Department of Education.
Morgan Elementary (Bibb County), the Houston County Career and Technology Center, Pearl Stephens Elementary (Houston County), Bleckley County High, Fort Valley Middle School, and the Bibb County-located Georgia Academy for the Blind (operated by the state) are among the 51 schools statewide that received the classification.
Alert Schools are those that had the lowest achievement of the all students grouped in terms of proficiency on statewide assessment tests, have demonstrated a lack of progress on those assessments over three years, and those that aren’t identified as Priority or Focus Schools.
DOE spokeswoman Meghan Frick said the classification is not a punishment.
“It’s a way to identify schools that need extra help,” she said. “We want to define why they are not making progress.”
Frick said the designation doesn’t mean a school will receive extra funds, but instead, the state will work with those schools to come up with ways to improve. That can include anything from hiring an instructional coach to putting together a school improvement plan.
Jennifer Birdsong, director of federal programs for the Houston County school system, said Tuesday that the district constantly tracks the progress of all of its schools, so officials were aware that Pearl Stephens was underperforming. She said the system already is addressing the problem.
“We look at data constantly,” she said. “(The designation) is a way to refocus and re-energize our sense of urgency. We already have plans in place to have a positive impact on the school. We’re going to hire an instructional teacher with Title I funds for the students who are most at-risk academically. There also will be new professional learning programs in place.”
Birdsong said the career center’s structure is a bit more difficult to quantify, because it’s more of an open concept where students attend when they need class credits while working toward graduation.
“It’s a very small population, so (the “alert schools” designation is) misleading to a certain degree,” she said.
Last year, Bibb County had two schools -- Williams Elementary and Bruce Elementary -- designated as alert schools, but both have since improved enough to have that status removed.
Ramon Johnson, principal at Bruce Elementary, said after his school received the alert schools designation that he and his staff used four, half-day planning sessions to assess the students’ needs. The data showed the students had a deficiency in reading.
“We developed a game plan,” he said, which included implementing a Read 180 program as well as other scheduled interventions. “We moved teachers around. We did a plethora of things. The teachers had a great buy-in, and we made great gains and got off the list.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.