On Monday, April 21, the state released the 2013 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). CCRPI is a comprehensive school improvement, accountability, and communication platform designed to rate school performance.
The Thomaston-Upson School System scored a 72.2, compared to a state average of 75.8. The school system surpassed scores in the surrounding school districts of Lamar (71.0), Meriwether (54.6), Griffin-Spalding (67.9), and Butts (67.5) and almost met the Pike County district score of 72.6.
Upson-Lee Middle School, Upson-Lee North, and Upson-Lee South all posted increases over last year’s scores. Upson-Lee Middle School scored a 78.3, which is above the 2013 state average of 75.0 and above the 2012 ULMS score of 74.7. Upson-Lee North and South scored a 78.4, just missing the state average of 78.5 and posting an increase over the 2012 score of 76.6.
Upson-Lee High School posted the lowest score in the district with a 58.7. This is below the 2013 state average of 72.0 and a decrease in comparison to the ULHS 2012 CCRPI score of 66.7.
Dr. Larry Derico, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and Karen Truesdale, Director of School and Community Relations, said last week that while the school system is not making excuses for the high school’s poor showing, there are more factors to consider than just the score. First, said Derico, people need to realize that this is last year’s score for the 2012-2013 school year.
“We’re looking at a CCRPI score that reflects back to last spring’s CRCT and End Of Course (EOC) tests. We didn’t wait for the scores to come out, we have already been working on improvements and we’re very optimistic that the changes that were put in place for this year are going to make a difference so we will see an increase in our CCRPI score,” said Dr. Derico. “This is last spring’s test. If we were waiting to see what our scores were before we made any adjustments, the school year would be over, and we’re just now getting test scores from last year. But we’re not sitting around and waiting for the CCRPI scores to come out before we make adjustments. We know where our concerns are.
“We’re very proud of the way our other schools performed. They did very well. But even when you go back and look at our EOC test scores for the end of the 2012-2013 school year and compare it to the 2011-2012 year, there are only minor fluctuations up or down in the percentage of students that we had that met or exceeded on the EOC tests. “
Derico stated that in looking through the data, they found that the only major drop as far as subjects taught was in the area of the Coordinate Algebra tests. He believes one reason for the drop is the unfamiliarity of teachers with Coordinate Algebra, which was just implemented by the state in 2012.
“We implemented Math 1 five years ago,” he said. “Last year we received such horrible EOC test scores in Coordinate Algebra. The year before it was much better, but that was after we had taught Math 1, so teachers were starting to get comfortable with it and professional development was in place. Now all of a sudden the state changes the math curriculum and we move to Coordinate Algebra. Then we see a drop, because last year was the first year we received Coordinate Algebra scores. So we know that factors into the CCRPI scores as far as achievement goes.”
Out of the 8-point drop at the high school, 5.2 of those points came with the Achievement Gap, which measures the performance levels between the highest achieving students and the lowest achieving students, which are students with disabilities. The Achievement Gap was wider in the 2012-2013 CCRFI tests than it was in the tests the year before. Part of that was another state requirement that changed last year.
“Now, all students with disabilities have to pass EOC tests and that’s calculated. But in 2011-2012, the students only had to pass the course, they weren’t required to pass the EOC tests. So depending on the number of students with disabilities you have, that may or may not have a major impact,” said Derico
“So we know we’re not doing great on EOC tests. We know we’ve got a lot of work to do there. But we’ve made adjustments in the curriculum, adjustments in the professional development, as well as there have been some personnel changes. All that is going to be necessary in order to improve these test scores. We’ve got to put more interventions in place to work with our students with disabilities and try to bring them up as much as we possibly can. We’ll pour some more professional development in and try to get some resources in place to close the gap.”
When asked what the adjustments are, Dr. Derico said they range from having the teachers getting to know the students better, which will aid them in determining who may need more help with their work, to improving the students’ reading skills.
“We know that reading is 90 percent of the battle,” Derico said. “We get the students reading, that will solve a lot of problems, which prompted us to pursue the Striving Readers Literacy Grant, which we received. That’s $2.3 million that we can use district wide to start providing some development for our teachers on how to teach reading to our kids, and going out and finding best practices that are working in other schools that may be doing better than we are.
“As far as science goes, we just secured the STEM grant from DART. As far as CTAE goes, we’re going to be able to offer some more for our students. That is next year. Other staff development is being offered by the principals based on evaluations of teachers and where they see their weaknesses are. “
Truesdale added that changes are already being made even before the end of this school year to pave the way for next year.
“We took a hit on social media for some of the changes they are making at the high school, but that’s one of the reasons, because Dr. Derico and Julie English and Dr. Beeland and Dr. Gatlin are always constantly evaluating those test scores, evaluating teacher performance, student performance, and going ahead and putting things in place for next year, based on what we know is going on there now,” said Truesdale.
“I think it is important to stress that the high school lost the bulk of their points based on the fact that the higher performing students were performing too high, and the lower performing students were performing too low. So it is not that the high school is failing, it is that we have not been able to close that achievement gap. We’ve not been able to bring those lower performing students up and close the gap between them and the higher performing students.”
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.