In September, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-east Cobb) and Barge personally delivered the state’s waiver request and an alternative accountability plan, known as the College and Career Ready Performance Index, to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
At the 2011 annual conference of the Georgia School Boards Association and Georgia School Superintendents Association, Barge said he expects to know by the end of December whether Duncan will grant the state the requested waiver, including a waiver for the Adequate Yearly Progress requirement.
The state department has been working on CCRPI for the past 18 months.
“We are thankful the state has taken this opportunity,” said Ken Owen, CCSD director of school improvement, adding that Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo and the school board have said for 10 years that NCLB has had many issues.
“We think the waiver addresses those, and we’re very happy to see it’s been applied for,” he said.
School district officials have provided the state with their own input on the waiver. Owen said the district sent a letter to Deputy State Superintendent Dr. Reichrath in August addressing local concerns.
“They did take it to heart, the input they received from us and others,” Owen said, adding that the transparency of state officials and their willingness to explain details of the proposed plan have helped to get district officials on board with CCRPI.
A representative from Reichrath’s office responded to the letter in early September clarifying all proposed questions.
As per the state’s final CCRPI plan, schools will be scored in three areas: Actual Performance (Status), Progress (Growth) and Achievement Gap Reduction. The final cumulative score will be based on a weighted average of the three areas, plus bonus points for “success factors.”
Another change from previous federal standards will be the consideration of subgroups within schools.
“We now know the data will be disaggregated when reported but schools and school districts will not be labeled as ‘failing’ due to the scores of subgroups,” Owen said.
The last of the district’s concerns was the Career Awareness program, which will now will be completed over a five year span in first through fifth grades.
Owen noted that the initial iteration of CCRPI made it seem like the modules would all occur in one grade level. Also, the state will allow multiple software programs to show that students are completing Career Interest Inventories.
“We have a different software package we’ve used for a number of years,” Owen said, noting the program was user-friendly and robust.
He added that the dropped requirement may seem like a small thing, but it would have meant a lot of money and resources for the district.
“It would have meant us completely revamping what we did in elementary and middle schools to meet one piece of the waiver,” he said.
If the waiver is granted, it may be applied to the current school year with penalties not going into effect until next year. The only concern he shared was whether the information would be compared to benchmark data, something the initial outlines of CCRPI didn’t provide.
“Our parents are very used to seeing data presented to them and would understand it, but without having background information, some of those numbers and percentages can be confusing,” Owen said.
He also said the CCRPI will provide more of a robust picture of performance under its multiple-criterion index—a marked improvement from NCLB.
“(Under NCLB), the evaluation of a school is completely based on how children do on a single day on a single measure,” Owen said. “When they sit down for the CRCT or EOCT in April or May, that determines how the school is judged.”
Owen added that he thinks CCRPI gives a more accurate picture of how schools are doing and allows them to better address the needs of students.
Also, the new measure accounts for students who plan to go straight into the workforce after high school graduation. Owen noted the thousands of job openings in service industries like welding and automotive repair—fields he feels students should also be prepared for in high school through technical training, if needed.
Still, he doesn’t believe the waiver is perfect.
“Any time there is a federal or state-determined accountability plan, it’s not going to fit everybody,” Owen said, noting the district has its own standards of accountability.
Post 4 school board member Mike Chapman said the board discussed the waiver and were aware of the systemic problems with NCLB and AYP.
“We truly want to measure performance,” Chapman said. “If you don’t measure performance, you can’t improve.”
Chapman noted that AYP standards punished schools who “really did a great job,” and is looking forward to accommodating the changes of the new state standards, if and when they change.
“What I think new process will do will give us a better read on what we’re actually doing,” he said. “We will be able to focus our approach to where we can make the outcome better.”