Now, it is a high school in the Savannah-Chatham County district preparing to fire its entire staff after the school failed to move its dismal graduation rate. Beach High School meets the definition of a failing school because it has been classified as needing improvement for the past seven years by the state.
The 200 employees at Beach High School — including the principal — will work there through the end of the year but will not be rehired for that school, said Karla Redditte, spokeswoman for the Savannah-Chatham County school district.
The teachers can reapply for their jobs but only half can be rehired under federal education law, she said. Staff can also apply for other jobs in the school district.
“It is a sad day for us,” Redditte said by phone as she stood outside the 950-student school in south Georgia.
Experts estimate the mass-firing tactic is used to turn around 20 to 30 schools in the U.S. annually.
If a failing school in Georgia refuses to make any of those changes, the state places a special administrator in the school to focus on annual progress measures such as test scores and graduation rates. In Georgia this year, 45 schools have state administrators in them, including Beach High School, state Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said.
Beach has been on the state’s lowest performing list for seven years, he said.
Like the Rhode Island high school that President Obama cited as an example of a dramatic action needed to shake up education, Beach High is taking the option of last resort to improve its performance and prevent state sanctions that could make it ineligible for federal for up to $6 million in federal money, officials said Thursday.
In a recent speech on school reform, Obama said, “We’ll not only challenge states to identify high schools with graduation rates below 60 percent, we’re going to invest another $900 million in strategies to get those graduation rates up. Strategies like transforming schools from top to bottom by bringing in a new principal, and training teachers to use more effective techniques in the classroom. Strategies like closing a school for a time and reopening it under new management, or even shutting it down entirely and sending its students to a better school. And strategies like replacing a school’s principal and at least half of its staff. Now, replacing school staff should only be done as a last resort.”
Under the turnaround model that shoves every school employee from principal to custodian out the door, the new management of the school can hire back half the staff.
According to state data, Beach High has 1,000 students, 77 percent of whom qualify for free and reduced lunches.
In 2006, Beach had a graduation rate of 55.9 percent. (Two years earlier, the rate had been a shocking 37.1)
However, the school was showing signs of improvement. Last year, according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, the grad rate was 65.9 percent, compared to the school system rate of 72.2 percent rate
On the Georgia High School Graduation Tests, 22 percent of Beach students failed science; 28 percent failed social studies; 10 percent failed English; and 10 percent failed mathematics. However, when you look at the far worse End of Course test failure rates across all maths, you have to wonder why the state even bothers to give the Georgia High School Graduation test in math since it doesn’t seem to reflect any real competency.
(Please note: I updated these scores Friday morning with the 2008-2009 data. What is odd to me is that Beach improved dramatically on the Georgia High School Graduation Tests last year, but went down on the End of Course Tests overall. Can someone please explain that to me? Having sat through the original discussion of the EOCTs, I have more faith in them than I do the GHSGT, but still wonder how a school could improve its science passage on the high school graduation test by so much, yet do so poorly on the science and math EOCTs.)
While the nation’s average ACT scores was 21.1 and Georgia’s was 20.3, Beach’s average was 15.9
Here are the End of Course failure rates at Beach for 2008-2009:
Algebra, 90 percent
Geometry, 87 percent
Biology, 79 percent
US History, 86 percent
Physical Science, 69 percent
9th grade Literature, 52 percent
American Lit, 40 percent
Economics, 79 percent