CANTON — The Cherokee County Board of Education discussed the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards, teacher evaluations, academies, technology, funding issues and information sharing at its bi-annual Trends in Education work session before its meeting Thursday night.
“These bi-annual sessions are showcases for the school board and the community to learn more about how our staff at every level is embracing the best of today’s global trends in education to enhance teaching and learning, as well as their innovation in developing local initiatives that are ahead of these trends,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said. “It’s an exciting time to be an educator or a student in our schools.”
School district administrators from many areas explained during the work session what their departments were working on, and how initiatives this school year will help to improve the district and opportunities available
In 2012, Cherokee schools began implementing Common Core Standards for English language arts, math and literacy, according to Dr. Pat Kearns, director of Academic Standards, Professional/Staff Development and Career Pathways for the local school system.
“All performance standards are available on the CCSD website, they’re available for parents and teachers,” Kearns said.
Kearns said Common Core science standards are “on the horizon” and the state is looking to revise the standards over the course of this year. Full implementation of the science standards won’t happen until the 2015-16 year, and Kearns said this was so the district could provide training for teachers in the science standards during the 2014-15 year.
Mike McGowan, supervisor for strategic planning, said the district is now “in the wait and see mode” after Georgia pulled out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test Consortium, and decided to develop its own test instead.
“It was going to be given in grades one all the way through high school, don’t really know what the plan for their test is going to be. We’re speculating that they’ll probably start with grade three and go up,” McGowan said.
In the 2013-14 school year, students will, for the first time, have the option to test out of nine courses by taking End Of Course Tests. By receiving a score of “Exceeding,” students can earn credit without taking a class, and McGowan said that since students may take advantage of this option this week, results for the new program will be available within a few weeks.
McGowan also said that the 2012-13 School Year College and Career Readiness Performance Index scores will be available in October.
“You’ll note that we exceed the state average (in 2011-12) and are doing really well in every subject area,” McGowan said.
Out of 100 total points, and judged by multiple factors, the School District had an overall score of 85.8 for the 2011-12 school year.
Last school year, the district had a “modified teacher evaluation process” where the teachers were observed twice in walkthroughs and had one formative evaluation, as part of the second year of transition into the new statewide teacher evaluation requirements, according Trey Olson, the assistant superintendent of personnel management.
“We’re in year three … This coming school year they’ll have four walk-throughs and two formative evaluations,” Olson said.
Olson said part of the process is to connect student achievement and teacher performance, and Student Learning Objectives are being developed to measure academic growth for non-tested courses.
The Georgia Department of Education requires the district to develop objectives for at least 50 percent of non-tested courses during the 2013-14 school year.
As a result, district staff will need to develop objectives for 190 courses this year, to total at least 450 courses that have Student Learning Objectives for next year.
STEM, Fine Arts and C3 academies
Letitia Cline, assistant superintendent for Educational Programs, Student Support and Professional Development, said that over the summer new staff members were trained in teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics courses.
STEM initiatives were already in place for third- through fifth-grade, and Cline aid that second and sixth grade have been added.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo explained why increasing STEM offerings is vital for the district and county.
“The purpose on the emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is because as a country we are not preparing an adequate percentage of our kids for jobs and work professions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Petruzielo said.
During summer 2014, the district will create STEM options for first and seventh grade, and all six Cherokee County high schools are working to achieve STEM status.
Ball Ground, Canton, Clark Creek and Holly Springs elementary schools are STEM Academies, and are in their second year of operation.
The Fine Arts Academies, Hasty and Oak Grove elementary schools, are also in their second year, providing integrated arts in every classroom at least once a week, according to Clark.
Fine Arts Academy principals, along with many teachers, attended a workshop in July and over the summer, to help provide them with materials, lessons, strategies and ideas to continue growing the arts programs.
The district also recently expanded their partnership with Kennesaw State University, which now includes the opportunity to work with their art and history museums.
Dr. Rouel Belleza, administrator on Special Assignment, spoke about the district’s C3 Academy, which offers 120 core curriculum, AP and elective courses available online for students to take.
More information is available at http://www. chero kee.k12.ga.us/ Schools/ccca/default.aspx.
McGowan said the 21st century skills assessment, which was required to be given to eighth-graders for the past three years, is no longer funded by the state through federal money and will not be administered any more.
“We exceed not only the state and the nation’s ranking, but we are proficient above the global standard in Cherokee County,” McGowan said. “We’re real proud of that.”
Petruzielo said the state defunding this sort of test was “misguided.”
“I don’t know how much money it cost the state to do this last year or the year before, but it would seem to me that if any additional dollars are ever available at the state level, it should be a priority to continue this kind of testing,” Petruzielo said.
Students in all grades have cloud-based resources available, meaning they can save, open or access things on any computer with Internet access.
Many books, assignments, programs and other items are placed on the “cloud,” so students can do their work from almost anywhere, and in many cases, without needing to bring a book with them, said McGowan.
Other technology enhancements like the district offering professional development for teachers on alternative teaching methods through technology, and local and global collaboration through video conferencing, are growing in the district.
School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said that initiatives to improve communication have been successful.
Jacoby said improvements have been made in many communication outlets, such as providing board briefs after school board meetings, posting positive and important news on social media, creating fact sheets, improving the CCSD website and allowing parents to access information on their children through the Parent Portal.
Petruzielo said the school district continues to “feel the pinch” of budget cuts on the federal and state levels.
Kenneth Owens, director for Grants Accounting, Internal Audits and Budgets, said that federal and state funding cuts through the sequestration and austerity budget cuts, and an increase in the cost of the state Health Benefit Plan, will continue to impact the school board budget.
Candler Howell, assistant superintendent for Financial Management, said that in 2013-14, for the first time since the 2011-12 fiscal year, has seen a slight reduction in cuts from $26.5 million to $24.8 million.
Petruzielo said that there does not seem to be “a short-term fix” for the budget woes.
“If the economy continues to improve, if the state revenue picture continues to improve, then (hopefully) it will be a priority for the governor and Legislature to continue to reduce the state austerity budget cuts and restore dollars,” Petruzielo said.
If budget cuts are reduced, Petruzielo said some goals would be to reduce class sizes and get rid of teacher furlough days.