ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Department of Education on Tuesday launched its new report card for the state's public schools, with an online tool that allows parents to look up school and district scores across the state.
The College and Career Ready Performance Index is designed to create a more comprehensive look at how schools are doing and replaces the old "adequate yearly progress" system implemented under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The index, which has been in the works for a few years, was made possible after the state was granted a waiver under the federal law.
"The new accountability system takes into account all the complex things that our schools do every day to make sure our kids are ready for their next level of education," said state Schools Superintendent John D. Barge. "We're not just measuring academic performance anymore. That is still absolutely a significant part of the index and the accountability. But we're also looking at school culture, school climate, which are also critical to a student's success."
Every school, district and the state as a whole is assigned a numerical score out of 100 points possible. The scores are based on a mix of student achievement, student progress and success in closing achievement gaps on state tests. For instance, factors for high school achievement include the percent of students scoring meets or exceeds on end-of-course tests, the percent of graduates entering college without needing remediation and student attendance rate.
Under the index, the state's high schools scored 72.6 points out of 100, while middle schools scored 81.4 points and elementary schools scored 83.4 points for the 2011-2012 school year. The online search tool is available at http://ccrpi.gadoe.org/2012/ .
For now, there is no basis of comparison for the numbers, but state officials say soon it will be easier to track improvement across a wide array of areas. Scores for the current school year, 2012-13, are expected to be released in November.
"We know that there are many of our schools that are not where we want them to be," Barge said. "But we also recognize that under the old accountability system, the only thing that counted was test performance in English and math. And now student performance across the board is important. It's not just English and math; it's science and social studies."
In addition, schools can earn up to 10 extra points across a number of areas, including meeting certain performance targets for students with disabilities and economic disadvantages and those learning English. Schools also can earn extra points based on such things as the percent of graduates taking college entrance exams and earning a Georgia Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Program certification.
On the high school level, 23 percent of schools statewide scored 80 points or higher on the index. Among the top scoring in the state were A. R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet High School in Augusta, which scored 101.2 points, and the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology in Lawrenceville, which earned 99.8 points.
Gwinnett County Schools, as a whole, outperformed the statewide scores for elementary, middle and high schools. The district's elementary schools scored 93.5 points, while its middle schools scored 94.3 and high schools scored 76.4.
"Overall, our schools are doing well," said Gwinnett Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. "However, this index provides additional information on areas in which we need to improve. More importantly, this index is a communication tool that will help our communities better understand how their schools are doing."
For Atlanta Public Schools, which is still rebounding from a massive cheating scandal a few years ago in which prosecutors allege educators inflated student test scores, districtwide scores were below the state average. In Atlanta, high schools scored 60.3 points, while middle schools scored 67.9 and elementary schools scored 68.4. One Atlanta high school, Carver Early College, was ranked among the best in the state, scoring 96.3 points.
"The 2011-12 results support our sense of urgency to improve systemic levels of achievement across the district," said district spokesman Stephen Alford. "While we are below the state in our average results, some of our schools are achieving at the highest levels. As a district, we will remain relentless in implementing programs that move all of our schools toward high levels of achievement.
For DeKalb County Schools, which has been placed on probation by an accreditation agency, results were mixed. The district fell short of statewide numbers, scoring 66.4 points for high schools, 73.5 points for middle schools and 71.2 points for elementary schools. In a statement, the district noted that 24 of its elementary schools had outperformed the state average and touted Wadsworth Magnet's score of 101.9 points at the elementary level and DeKalb School of the Arts' 95.5 points at the high school level.
"As educators, our primary goal is to prepare students for the next step, be it higher education, joining the military or joining the workforce. These results help our district see where we must focus more efforts to make sure we provide our teachers and students with the additional supports and resources they need to succeed," said Dr. Kathleen Howe, deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
Gov. Nathan Deal said he was pleased that a process of accountability had been implemented, allowing comparisons to be made.
"You start by having an objective standard by which you measure the progress that a student or a school or a system can make, and I think this is certainly a step in the right direction," Deal said. "I wish our scores were higher, but the one thing about not being satisfied about the scores you have is that you work a little harder to make them better."
Follow Christina Almeida Cassidy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP_Christina.