ATLANTA (AP) — It’s getting more complicated to tell how Georgia public schools are faring.
The state Department of Education on Thursday released a full spectrum of school accountability numbers for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. But there isn’t a single number to sum up the performance of any one school or district. And that could ultimately mean the end of Georgia’s A-to-F letter grade system for schools and districts.
Discarding that single number accomplished a long-held goal of state Superintendent Richard Woods, who says it’s unfair to measure schools on just one yardstick. Woods won approval from the U.S. Department of Education in October to stop calculating a single number in the College and Career Ready Performance Index.
Georgia was one of a number of states nationwide that adopted A-to-F letter grades for schools. But the system has faced backlash as putting too much emphasis on standardized testing and labeling lower-performing schools as failing.
Woods, a Republican elected statewide, said in a statement that the old 100-point single score “vastly oversimplified the complicated factors that influence school quality.”
“With this change, the CCRPI is more like the ‘report card’ it was always intended to be — encouraging schools, families, and communities to dig into the data and both celebrate achievements and address issues that tended to be obscured by the single score,” Woods said.
Instead, Georgia now publishes only the component parts of the index: academic content mastery, readiness, progression, on-time high school graduation, and whether underperforming groups are closing academic gaps.
And even for those measures, there is no single number to sum up how a district is doing on any component, only separate measures of performance for grades prekindergarten to 6, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. That also means a single school with students from more than one of those grade bands, like one with students in grades K-8, gets multiple measures for different grade levels.
Content mastery in the 2022-2023 school year showed increases from the 2021-2022 year, in line with standardized test results released earlier this year. They showed test scores rose, but haven’t returned to where they were before the pandemic. Content mastery rose most in elementary grades and least in high school grades.
Deputy state Superintendent Allison Timberlake said the state doesn’t calculate measures of statistical significance for changes in the scores, but said she regarded the increase in content mastery scores as “practically significant” across a statewide enrollment of 1.75 million students.
Woods said progress and readiness scores reached their highest-ever levels. However, readiness scores are not comparable to earlier years because of changes in how the number is calculated. Timberlake said there are also small differences from previous years in the measure of whether students are closing gaps.
A separate agency, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, is required by state law to calculate the 100-point scale, and has been the one that assigns letter grades. Joy Hawkins, the office’s executive director, said it’s unclear whether that office will be able to calculate a 100-point scale or issue letter grades. Those A-to-F grades were last issued following the 2018-2019 school year.
The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement “is seeking ways to provide useful continuity of research and comparability with past years of CCRPI reporting for all audiences,” Hawkins wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
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