The state’s newly sanctioned accountability system is coming into public view with the release of 78 “priority” schools that are under performing and will see a concerted effort to improve.
Apparently, putting a school in the “priority” category has a less offensive ring than putting it in “needs improvement,” the discarded parlance from No Child Left Behind. The other new categories in Georgia are “focus” schools and “reward” schools. The reward designation goes to high-achieving schools.
When you look at the priority list, there are a large number of alternative high schools, which are designed to serve troubled students or kids who have not been doing well.
There are 14 schools in the Atlanta Public Schools, 10 in DeKalb County, three in Gwinnett (Meadowcreek High School and Gwinnett InterVention Education Center East and West) and one each in Cobb (Devereux Ackerman Academy) and Fulton (McClaren Alternative School). Schools are placed on the list because of low graduation rates and test scores.
The DeKalb list includes DeKalb/Rockdale PsychoEducation Center, DeKalb Alternative School, DeKalb Transition School, International Student Center, Indian Creek and Toney elementaries and Towers, McNair, Elizabeth Andrews and Clarkston high schools.
The APS list includes several of the small themed schools within Booker T. Washington and Therrell, Jackson, Douglass and Crim high schools, South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Science, Hillside Conant School, School of Technology and School of Health Science and Research at Carver, APS-Forrest Hills Academy and South Atlanta School of Animation and Design.
Schools will carry the priority designation for three years and will be offered state assistance for the duration of that time period. They will be able to have the designation removed early, but the department has not yet finalized the targets schools will have to hit to get off the list.
Priority schools is one of three new designations that will be used in Georgia and other states that requested and were granted a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind school accountability system.
In its application for a waiver from NCLB mandates, Georgia promised that it would offer a fourth designation, “alert schools,” so the state could focus on struggling schools that do not have a high percentage of low-income students. The other three designations all focus on so-called “Title I” schools that do have a high percentage of low-income students.
The state Department of Education is still setting up the accountability system it will use instead of the one mandated by NCLB. It won’t have focus or alert designations until this spring, and it won’t have reward designations ready until this fall.
Districts with priority schools must submit an effectiveness plan to the state identifying areas of need. The state will then designate a specialist to monitor the implementation of that plan. State officials also will meet with district officials, review data and go over specific areas of need. Professional learning and support will be provided.
APS said it will continue offering its own assistance to schools that are struggling. “APS has traditionally allocated additional resources in terms of targeted instruction and curriculum to improve the academic performance of this category of schools, and that emphasis continues under the current administration,” said Keith Bromery, the district’s director of media relations.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog