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Winter scores raise concern among Liberty Co. school board members
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The 2018 end of course winter data from the Georgia Milestone Assessments were a point of contention at the Liberty County Board of Education’s work session Tuesday morning. The data showed skewed results, and raised questions from board members in regards to measures being taken to ensure students’ success in schools. 

Chief Academic Officer Patti Crane presented the winter results, emphasizing that the data does not present a complete picture, due to scheduling conflicts in the high schools. In the spring, the data will be more representative of the two high schools and district as a whole, she said. 

“We’ll have a complete picture for you in the spring when we have both administrations of those results,” Crane said. “Our winter EOC data is significantly affected by scheduling considerations. Effectiveness at the school level should only be considered when you have the entire school year of data.”

In collaboration with both high school and personnel, the school system and both high schools transitioned from 9th grade Literature to Lit 1 and 2, where the students will take the end of course assessment in 10th grade at the conclusion of Lit 2, Crane said.

The 9th grade course number is the same as the Lit 2 course number, which is tied to the first ELA EOC, Crane continued.

“This gives the students two full years to master the content before taking the assessment,” Crane said. “Prior to this, they came into 9th grade and were expected to take the EOC. Basically, they’re able to have more standards taught to them and have more time to master the content.”

According to the data, both high schools are performing above both the state and First District RESA (Regional Educational Service Agency) standards in English courses. Bradwell Institute received an 87 percent for meeting standards, and Liberty County High School received a 68 percent for 9th grade Literature. In American Literature, BI was at a 49 percent, and LCHS at a 44 percent, remaining in line with the state and RESA scores of 42 percent.

“It’s important to remember that the scheduling affects the scores,” Crane continued, leading into the Algebra 1 data, which shows a large gap between the high schools scores.

Bradwell chose not to schedule any of their honors students for the first semester in Algebra 1, Crane said. The students at-risk are scheduled first semester so they have another opportunity to take the test should they not succeed the first time, she continued.

“They intentionally did that,” Crane added. “They felt that was what would give their students a better opportunity for success. When we get the spring results, we’ll have a complete picture for you with all students in the data.”

District 2 board member Carolyn Smith Carter raised concerns over students being placed in Algebra 1 when they are entirely unprepared, she said.

“What kind of pretest was given?” Carter asked. “And what was the baseline for those students taking the test?”

Carter said she has heard of some problems concerning the intellectual level of students taking Algebra 1. Students are coming into the class without having the proper prior knowledge to successfully complete the course, she continued.

“Math is a problem across the state,” Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry said. “Clearly you can see, the state, at 33 percent, the RESA at 29, and our system at 21, BI at 13, and LCHS at 29—math is a problem. Our training is coming from our RESA, and there are RESAs across the state that are doing better. I’m going to have a conversation with our RESA to find out why other areas are doing better than us. Clearly, math is a problem across the state, and we know we’ll have to get more assistance.”

Crane said that there is benchmarking in place, to gauge the level that the students are currently at in a subject.

There has been some confusion within the school with students being placed in Algebra 1, and then being pulled and placed into a pre-Algebra class—Math 180. BOE vice chairwoman and District 3 board member Carol Guyett questioned whether Math 180 had be eliminated in schools, after hearing some concerns among teachers.

“Teachers that are in the trenches at Bradwell, they were saying that they saw remarkable gains from the students when they were able to take them from where they were and through the Math 180 program, move them forward,” Guyett said. “What I’m understanding from our teachers, is that our 9th graders are not prepared for Algebra 1. Did we remove Math 180? Did we talk to the teachers before that, because they see every day the deficits of their students.”

Both Crane and Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Susan Avant assured the board that Math 180 has not been removed, but did admit there was some original confusion where students who were placed in Algebra 1 were pulled and placed into a pre-Algebra course instead, getting that support they need to succeed.

“There are some students taken out of the Math 180, because they weren’t showing any gains whatsoever,” Avant said. “Not every child was removed. There are still some students with seats in the Math 180 class. There’s also another course that’s available that’s a transition to algebra for 9th graders. Some of the students that were in the Math 180 and algebra, weren’t ready, they are now doing that transition to algebra course.”

All concerns of the board will be addressed by central office staff, Crane said. Each school developed a data drive improvement plan and school wide expectations for instruction in coordination with Avant. Strategies include: lesson plan assistance; modeling lessons; providing instructional materials and additional resources; co-teaching and support from other teachers; and school walkthroughs by the Teaching and Learning Department.

“Additional next steps include visits to high-performing high schools in the state, and school plan implementations,” Crane said.

In other business, the board approved four out-of-state travel requests, and set the date for the board’s retreat: March 26. At the retreat, the board will develop the new superintendent instrument, BOE Chairwoman Lily Baker said.

Chief Operations Officer Jason Rogers also reported that construction on Bradwell’s gym is close to completion, with the cleanup crew set to come in sometime next week, he said. After the cleanup crew, they’ll address a punch list, and are shooting for a final completion date sometime in mid-March.

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