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Graduation rates surpass state average
But CCRPI scores still lagging behind pre-COVID figures

Liberty County Schools officials are looking at how the system can improve on its College and Career Ready Performance Index scores across the board.

The CCRPI scores showed mastery content improving in 2023 from 2022 at the county’s three middle schools, but still lagging behind pre-COVID results.

“Every one of our middle schools had improvements in content mastery,” schools system testing coordinator Brandin Duke told board members recently. “We did experience some drops in science and social studies. However, English/language arts and math have been huge driving focuses in the district and that’s where we are moving up and moving forward. We have some work to do, but we are very proud of that.”

The state Department of Education no longer totals overall scores for districts and individual schools.

“They want us to focus on the actual component rather than the overall score,” Duke said.

The district’s overall graduation rate in 2023 was down from 2022 — from 91% to 89.5% - but still outpaced the overall state mark of 84.9%. The overall graduation rate is a combination of the fouryear rate and the five-year rate of graduations.

“Even with that decline, we are still outperforming the state,” Duke said. “We are still moving our students where they need to be.”

Content mastery rates — the figures at which students are deemed to be achieving at a level ready for the next grade, college or career — were down in 2022 for elementary, middle, and high school students across the state and the district from pre-COVID marks set in 2019. The only gain came in 2022 for middle school students in social studies, which was up 9 points over the 2019 level.

“It’s obvious we have work to do,” board Chair Verdell Jones said.

For 2023, figures for content mastery rose from 2022 for the state and district elementary school students, though those numbers still trailed pre-COVID measures. Scores were down slightly in ELA (English/language arts) and science but jumped more than 4 points in math.

Middle school students had gains in ELA and math from 2022 but the 2023 numbers in science and social studies declined. Overall content mastery dipped for Liberty County high school students but inched up across the state. The numbers declined slightly in all four areas — ELA, math, science and social studies — in 2023 for district students and still lag behind the 2019 levels in all four areas, though the social studies scores are only .58 points behind.

Among the district’s seven elementary schools, four — Joseph Martin, Lyman Hall, Taylors Creek and Waldo Pafford — had increases in overall content mastery from 2022 to 2023. Taylors Creek, at 66.4, led the pack and had the most significant jump, 5.9. Lyman Hall had the second biggest jump in scores, an increase of 5.8 over the previous year.

Of the 24 subjects — three each for the eight schools — 12 showed increases from 2022 and 12 had decreases. The biggest jumps were math at Taylors Creek and Lyman Hall, up 13.08 and 10.96 respectively, and science at Joseph Martin and Waldo Pafford, up 11.79 and 12.72 respectively. The biggest declines came in science at Button Gwinnett, Frank Long and Liberty.

For the county’s three middle schools, scores in science and social studies were down at each, but were up in both math and ELA. Overall, the system’s middle schools were up 2.56 from 2023 over 2022 in content mastery, with Lewis Frasier’s 3.64-point gain leading the way. Midway Middle had the top mark in overall content mastery — 62.98 - and in each of the four subject areas.

“Math has been a focal point for our district the past few years and we are starting to see some progress,” Duke said.

Overall content mastery was up at Bradwell Institute by 2.9 but down at Liberty County High School by 6.2 points. The county’s two high schools, and the state’s rate, are down from the 2019 figures, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scores in American Literature were down in 2023 for both schools but Bradwell showed gains in algebra, biology and U.S. history. The system’s high schools did not meet the district targets in ELA, math, science or social studies but Duke told board members the schools are working to address those shortfalls.

“We are trying to close those achievement gaps,” she said.

English language learners — those whose own language is not English and are a growing segment of the district’s enrollment — showed significant gains in elementary and middle school scores.

“The ELL population is growing daily,” Duke said.

Duke also pointed out that more than 50% of the district’s students are at or exceeding their grade level in reading. That figure is more than 60% for elementary students, just under 64% for middle schoolers and above 64% for high school students, and all three levels have shown double-digit improvements from 2022.

Teachers next year will have mandatory professional development on reading skills, Assistant Superintendent for teaching and learning Kellie Zeigler said.

“Our hope is to have more support, more literacy coaches in the schools,” she said.

The school system also has one more year with its L4GA literacy grant, which is $3 million over five years. The grant has helped put more books in the hands of students. The system also is partnering with the Rotary Club to see how to get books and resources to parents to help their kids with literacy skills.

The district does collect data at the classroom level, and Duke pointed out some of the lagging scores may be attributable to the number of long-term substitutes in classrooms. Academic specialists work “around the clock” with the longterm subs to help them, Duke said.

One troubling figure was the attendance rate, which is down from two years ago at all levels and is off by more than 20 points for high school students.

“Children need to come to school,” Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry said. “We’ve got to take a look at that. There is definitely a correlation on how much children come to school and how they perform.”

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