Two Peach County schools are on state lists of schools with achievement issues, but there is a clear path off this time.
Unlike past years, Fort Valley Middle School and Peach County High School have been given an outline for what is required if the schools are to move away from being a “priority” or “focus” school.
“They know what they have to do to come off,” said Wanda Stewart, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
Priority schools, such as Peach County High School, get that designation by being in the lowest 5 percent in the state based on mastery of content on assessments. They can also get on for having a graduation rate of less than 60 percent, but that wasn’t an issue for Peach County.
To exit the list, priority schools will need to rise out of that lowest 5 percent while also demonstrating an improvement of 5 percentage points in content mastery on tests.
Peach County High School Principal Al Pollard said that math was among the areas that landed his school on the list. To improve those scores, the school has identified which students need help with which math standards, and those are taught during “extended learning time” between first and second periods.
Further, if multiple students struggle with the same content, an evaluation must be made of the process.
“If I have several students who didn’t do well in a domain, maybe I need to change focus in that domain the following year,” he said.
Peach County High School received an additional $83,000 to help fund those efforts.
Fort Valley Middle School, a focus school, has a different set of criteria. Focus schools are designated as such because they score in the lowest 10 percent in the state in achievement gap scores, meaning their lowest-achieving students are falling behind the higher achieving students and not being brought up as effectively as other schools.
The “exciting” thing for Fort Valley Middle, though, is that the school has the opportunity to get off the list but keep an additional $63,000 in funding that comes from being a focus school, Principal Damika Glover said.
If the Georgia Milestones results, which come out later this month, reflect the required 2.5 percentage point improvement on achievement gap scores, the school will no longer be on the list but would keep the money.
“One thing they do not want us to do is come off the list and then go back on,” Glover said.
To ensure that doesn’t happen, the school is looking to identify students’ areas of weakness and differentiate classes and small groups to meet those needs. Glover said teachers are continually looking at the data to see which students are landing in the lowest 25 to 40 percent and keep them improving throughout the year.
“They’re not just waiting until they take an assessment,” Glover said. “They’re doing those little checks throughout the day.”
In the past, schools didn’t have the clear guidelines, but the new criteria have helped administrators plan strategically for how to meet the goals needed to get off their designated list.
“It makes it much easier that it’s more defined how to get off this time,” Glover said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter @MTJTimm.