November 13, 2013

State officials name ‘reward,’ ‘alert’ schools

From Staff Reports

— Information released Tuesday from an accountability system for public schools found two local schools that were placed on alert for not performing up to standards, two that were among the top schools in the state academically and three that were recognized for making significant progress.

The Georgia Department of Education released the information as part of the state’s waiver from another set of accountability guidelines under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Mountain Creek Academy in Murray County and Cedar Ridge Elementary in Whitfield County were both named “alert schools.” Mountain Creek was placed on the list because its graduation rate among white students fell significantly lower than the state’s average graduation rate.

Cedar Ridge was placed on the list because white students as a group scored significantly lower than the state’s average for white students on standardized curriculum tests in basic academic subjects.

Whitfield County Schools spokesman Eric Beavers said school officials are still waiting for details on which groups of students are struggling as “the raw test data has to be processed through a calculator provided by the state education department to pinpoint areas that placed the school on the alert list.”

He said educators see the data as “an indicator of performance” but one that doesn’t define a school as “good” or “bad.”

The information released Tuesday focuses on how well schools performed compared to similar groups of students statewide under technical mathematical formulas and did not include information on each school’s test scores or graduation rate.

Georgia Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said that, unlike in previous years when schools faced sanctions for poor performance, being placed on alert only means the school will begin receiving additional help and guidance from state education officials.

Among Title I schools — those with a significant portion of students living in poverty — dubbed “highest performing” for being among the top 5 percent in the state for their scores on standardized tests over three years were Brookwood Elementary School in Dalton and Woodlawn Elementary School in Murray County. Efforts to reach officials with Murray County Schools Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Brookwood Principal Celeste Martin attributed the recognition to that school’s staff and a non-traditional approach.

“We focus on learning, not testing,” Martin said. “Our teachers and our parents have a far greater desire for our students’ educational experience than that which is relegated to a test.”

Three local schools were named reward schools for being among the 10 percent of Title I schools in the state that have made the most academic improvement during the past three years. Those schools are Eastbrook Middle School and North Whitfield Middle School in Whitfield County and Murray County High School.

“We are proud of the work underway at all three schools named on the reward and alert school lists,” Beavers said.