The terms are replacements for the “needs improvement” designation under the recently waived No Child Left Behind performance standards.
Georgia was one of 10 states that successfully applied for a waiver from NCLB mandates. Now, Georgia is required to classify public schools as either focus, priority or reward schools under their newly proposed College and Career Ready Performance Index, the new measuring stick for school achievement.
These designations are given to Title I schools, which have a significant population of students who are economically disadvantaged. Title I schools receive federal money to assist with the education of their students.
On Tuesday, the state DOE released a list of 156 “focus” schools, which the department defines as needing additional attention to address achievement gaps and graduation rates between groups of students.
Focus schools perform at a slightly higher rate than those on the 78-school “priority” list the department released last week.
Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo said in a release that Cherokee’s Title I schools have a history of success.
“We’re proud to see they have not been named priority or focus schools by the State Department of Education,” Petruzielo said.
Kenneth Owen, director of student improvement with Cherokee County School District, said Thursday that not making the lists is good news for the district.
“We didn’t expect (our Title I schools) to fall under those lists,” Owen said. “We were pleased our thoughts were confirmed.”
Owen said the district’s Title I schools typically outperform others throughout the state.
Teasley Middle School, Woodstock Elementary School, R.M. Moore Elementary School and Boston Elementary School were all awarded the “Title I Distinguished Schools” designation at the March school board meeting. These schools all met Adequate Yearly Progress, a mandate under NCLB, for three or more consecutive years and serve as state and national models for school improvement.
Under CCRPI, priority schools are the lowest-performing 5 percent of public schools in the state and focus schools represent the 10 percent of schools just above the priority schools, Owen said
Clayton County has 15 focus schools, DeKalb County and Fulton County have 10 each, Atlanta Public Schools and Gwinnett County have seven each, Cobb County has five and Marietta City Schools has two focus schools.
As for priority schools, Atlanta Public Schools has 14, DeKalb County has 10, Gwinnett County has three and Cobb and Fulton counties each have one. The schools have fared the poorest in terms of graduation rates and test scores.
The reward category, going to high-achieving schools, will not be presented to the school districts until August, said Matt Cardoza, director of communications with the State Department of Education.
The state also will present a fourth designation, “alert schools,” to recognize and offer assistance to struggling schools that may not receive Title I funding. The list of alert schools will be produced by the state department next month, Cardoza said.
Owen said district officials are looking most forward to the “reward” school list released later this year, as it will be based on this year’s End of Course Tests and Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. The just-released priority and focus school lists are based on last year’s testing data, which schools were already accountable for under AYP, he said.
“Going forward, CCRPI will also be based on 2012 assessment data,” Owen said. “We’re really looking forward to seeing what CCRPI looks like.”