New school accountability scores down across most of midstate, Georgia

Scores on the latest College and Career Ready Performance Index are down statewide, but midstate school systems found reasons to be optimistic.

The scores, released Tuesday by the Georgia Department of Education, represent a comprehensive analysis of each district. They factor in four- and five-year graduation rates, and test scores are included for both raw performance and student improvement. Also, the gap between average scores and lower-performing students is taken into account.

“That’s one of the beautiful things about the CCRPI is it’s not just based on one thing,” said Eric Payne, Houston County’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. “It’s the whole picture.”

The state score dropped from a 75.8 in 2013 to a 72 in 2014. The scores are based on results from the most recent school year, so the 2014 mark comes from scores and rates from the 2013-2014 school year.

Overall, Georgia’s elementary schools saw a one-year decrease in scores from 77.8 to 72.6. Middle schools saw a one-year decrease in scores from 74.6 to 73.2, and high schools saw a one-year decrease in scores from 71.8 to 68.4.

“While decreasing CCRPI scores are disappointing, they are not unexpected,” state school Superintendent John Barge said in a release. “This index is still relatively new and demands different areas of focus for our schools. Improvements will not happen overnight, but the CCRPI is giving them a road map to tailor an education that is student-centered and one that will ensure they are college and career ready.”

First used in 2012, the CCRPI replaced the Annual Yearly Progress measurement when Georgia received a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act. The purpose of the CCRPI, which is based on a 100-point scale, is to give parents and educators a more easily understandable way to assess school achievement.

Since the CCRPI considers more factors, it’s considered an improvement over AYP, which was imposed by No Child Left Behind mandates and relied heavily on student performance on state exams.

In Middle Georgia, Monroe County maintained the area’s highest score at 80.8, but that was a decrease from the county’s 82.2 mark in 2013. Twiggs County saw an improvement from 55.9 to 59.9.

Monroe County Superintendent Anthony Pack said that boosting the score would continue to be a focus, but he credited specifically work done at the county’s ninth-grade academy for helping students with the transition to high school.

“Of course we’re pleased to maintain a leading role in our area,” he said, before noting that all districts had been aiming for a “moving target” as criteria for the CCRPI have been tweaked during the first three years. “We’re all still trying to figure out the CCRPI.”

Houston County was next in line with a score of 76.6, a 3.6-point drop from its score of 80.2 in 2013.

Payne said he was pleased that Houston County remained ahead of the state average at the elementary, middle and high school levels. He also said officials would be looking at the results to see what other schools could do to replicate the success of schools such as Parkwood Elementary, which saw an increase of 7.8 points in the last year.

“Anytime that our scores are going down instead of up, there’s concern, but we do realize it’s in line with the state’s,” he said of the overall decrease.

Bibb County had the smallest change in score, dropping from a 62.9 in 2013 to a 62.1 in Tuesday’s report. That mark is 4.8 points higher than the county’s initial score of 57.3 in 2012, however.

“I think we’re making great overall progress,” said Lynn Janes, the research, evaluation, assessment and accountability director for the Bibb County school system.

The county saw its biggest increase at the high school level. In 2012, Bibb County high schools scored a 51.9, more than 20 points off the state average of 72.8. This year, Bibb County’s high schools brought home a score of 61.2, nearly 10 points higher than the 2012 mark and just 7.2 points off the state average of 68.4.

Janes said she was glad to see the county “closing the gap” at that level.

“There’s still work to do, don’t get me wrong, but I’m happy with our progress,” she said.

Peach County took the biggest drop from 71.1 in 2013 to 62.3 this year, still almost a point higher than its initial score of 61.5 in 2012. Other area scores, with the 2013 score in parentheses, were Crawford County with a 63.2 (65.6) and Jones County with a 76.1 (77.8).

Peach County Superintendent Daryl Fineran, who is in his first year at the helm, said the district will continue to focus on its biggest area of decrease, the achievement gap component. That factors in the progress of students deemed to have disadvantages based on intellectual disabilities, economic status or race.

“We want to be making forward progress every year,” Fineran said. “That’s the name of the game, of course.”

Fineran also pointed out that while many of the district’s schools saw a decrease, Byron Middle School raised its score from 74.3 in 2013 to 80.9 in 2014. That’s more than 7 points better than the state’s middle school score of 73.2.

“We’re ecstatic about that,” Fineran said.