Opportunity School District may be dead, but A-F rating system lives on

With the exception of the press and politicians, it doesn’t appear anyone else in Georgia pays much attention to annual school ratings. Parents seem either baffled by the arcane underpinnings of ratings or skeptical of valuations that don’t reflect their experiences.

School ratings suffer two flaws; they’re either overly simplistic, ignoring demographics and socioeconomics, or incredibly complex, incorporating everything from attendance to perceptions.

Georgia bewildered parents with its ponderous College and Career Ready Performance Index that distills an array of factors into a single numerical rating. Parents had to decipher growth from performance and then figure out the extra bonus points.

Along with a CCRPI score assigned through the Department of Education, Georgia schools now earn an A-F grade through the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, a vestige of the now vanquished Opportunity School District. The OSD would have been populated by schools that earned an F rating from GOSA.

Even though the OSD proposal was killed by voters, the grading plan is apparently still alive.

As AJC education reporter Ty Tagami reported today:

Last year, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement unveiled an A-F grading system for schools. It was a simpler take on the nuanced — some would say too complicated — 110 point College and Career Ready Performance Index already established by the Georgia Department of Education.

Martha Ann Todd, the GOSA executive director, sees her agency’s new grading system as “parent-friendly, concise reports,” but the state’s largest teacher organization thinks it is ineffective.

The Georgia School Reports website “does a poor job of communicating why students are struggling in high-needs schools and what interventions may help them,” the Professional Association of Georgia Educators told its members in an email Wednesday.

With the beginning of the next legislative session imminent, it was a broadsides against GOSA and its new grading system. PAGE noted the state law mandating the A-F school rankings (Ga. Code 20-14-104) was repealed by the failure of Amendment 1 in November. That referendum, which called for the creation of a statewide Opportunity School District, would have relied on the grading system to identify the “F” schools subject to state takeover.

But Todd on Wednesday showed no indication that she was changing course. Indeed, she told members of the House Appropriations Committee that her agency plans to expand the A-F system in coming weeks, layering on new elements that will give the public more readily accessible information.

A preliminary report for the DOE’s Every Student Succeeds Act Working Committees suggests Georgia grades its schools more harshly than neighboring states. In “Comparisons and Systems Research of States’ Accountability Measures,” University of Georgia researcher Richard Welsh held up Georgia to other Southern states and high-achieving states.

He writes:

Of the five Southeastern states analyzed, only two other states have letter grades for performance. Georgia schools have to earn 82% of possible points or greater to earn an ‘A,’ whereas Louisiana schools must earn 67% or greater and Florida schools 62% or greater. Georgia schools have to earn 53% of possible points or less to earn an ‘F’, whereas Louisiana schools must earn 32% or less and Florida schools 31% or less. Overall, it appears that Georgia has a harsher grading scale than other Southeastern states. Georgia’s accountability system appears to identify the tails of school performance distribution fairly accurately (A & F schools), however, the middle of the distribution (B, C, and D schools) appear to be the schools that would trend higher on other states’ accountability models (especially Southeastern states).

Welsh also finds Georgia diverts from other states in evaluating all its schools by the same yardstick:

Overall, states generally place emphasis on growth at the elementary level, whereas proficiency and other indicators to gauge college and career readiness play a larger role in high schools; however, Georgia uses uniform achievement and growth weights across grade levels. Georgia’s use of achievement gap and bonus points warrants further consideration.

The accountability components are not always the same across grades. Typically, college and career readiness is included in middle and/or high schools and graduation rates in high schools. In Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, Louisiana and Massachusetts each schooling level has different components, with high schools generally having the most components. Conversely, Georgia, New Jersey and Tennessee apply the same elements across elementary, middle and high schools. In Maryland and New Hampshire, elementary, middle and high schools apply the same number of accountability components but the components applied at each level are not identical

Welsh explores how Georgia’s schools would be rated in other states, explaining Georgia’s letter grade scale is more stringent than Louisiana’s and Florida’s.

For example, an A school in Louisiana is 100 out of 150 or roughly schools gaining about two-thirds or above of the possible points on the school performance measure (compared to Georgia where A schools need about four-fifths of the points or above to be considered A schools).  The results indicate that a C school in Georgia would be an A school in Louisiana, a D school in Georgia would be a B school in Louisiana, and an F school in Georgia would be a C school in Louisiana. The results are similar when Georgia’s school grading scale is compared to Florida’s.

Compared to other Southeastern states with a school grading scale (letter grades) (Florida, Louisiana), Georgia has a more stringent grading scale. For instance, an A school in Florida & Louisiana needs roughly 2/3 of the points whereas in Georgia an A school needs about 4/5 of the points.  Although the high-performing states included in this preliminary report do not have letter grades, overall, the top rating for schools is typically associated with earning roughly 75% of the points of the performance index. Overall, it appears that Georgia has a tougher grading scale than other Southeastern and high-performing states.

Do you think parents care about ratings? Is there a better way to rate schools? If so, how?

Reader Comments 0

43 comments
MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

The key, relative to success in both medical care and educational care, is individualizing diagnosis of problems and prescribing plans pertinent to each patient or student.


Where that kind of educational plan occurs is not contingent upon the school's whereabouts.  Start with local schools and stay with wise, sophisticated, and individualized plans in those local community schools, wherever they are.

Pelosied
Pelosied

The education establishment would now like us to believe no one pays attention to school rankings? LOL.

When teachers' union leaders stop sending their own kids to private schools ... we might consider believing that.

Or maybe not.

Teedubs
Teedubs

There will never be a rating/grading system acceptable to educators as long as a school might be labeled failing or needs improvement. Same attitude that perpetuates social promotion.  And please stop using demographics and socio-economics as an excuse.  Do teachers use different tests or grading scales based on each student's demographics or socio-economic class? No.  So when all of those individual results are rolled up to a school average why doesn't that school grade reflect the achievement level of the school?  Great scores always seem to mean great schools but bad scores mean a bad scoring system not a bad school.  Does that sum it up?

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Teedubs Do you understand that Georgia's "rating/grading system," currently the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, is designed to produce "great schools" and "bad schools" at the opposite ends of the central tendency of a bell curve?

Starik
Starik

@EdJohnson @Teedubs The rating system is nonsense. Look at test scores, AP results and other stuff as matters.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Starik Good idea, provided the resulting data were presented and used to learn to improve schools rather than just to simplistically rank schools like first graders learn to put numbers in order.

Starik
Starik

@EdJohnson @Starik These numbers shouldn't be used to rate the performance of schools.  An excellent school can produce low scores, because it's full of kids who are hard to teach. Scores and other data can be used by parents to steer their kids to the best school for their kids, or where to buy a house.

dg417s
dg417s

Maureen.... I know the DOE is constitutionally defined, GOSA not so much. Where does GOSA derive its authority?

Astropig
Astropig

This article seems to be arguing against sunlight and transparency.If the ratings are really not worth much,why worry about them? What could possibly be the harm in parents having as much input as possible into the efficacy of their kids school(s)? Are these ratings carved into stone tablets,delivered by Charlton Heston? What information will be contained in these that is detrimental to the education process? What could the eduacracy possibly not want parents to see in these reports?



How about just letting parents decide how useful or not useful these ratings are?  

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Astropig Main reason to evaluate worth of annual state-funded school rating system: It is not cheap for the schools or the state to do. Schools have to gather all the data required by CCRPI. They have to survey parents, staff and students. (They are dinged for insufficient responses.) They have to provide all the information required for the new financial efficiency component. Then, state employees have to analyze data, go back to systems with questions or chase down missing material.

Would any private sector business continue to fund such a labor-intense project if it didn't  meet its aim?


Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney @Astropig


Against transparency.Got it.


Also, please don't ask me to speak for "private sector business".How in the world could one person do that?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig

Boss of Mr. Pig:  Mr. Pig, we have found your job performance is very poor.  You have received an F.

Mr. Pig:  I don't understand.  I am working myself to the bone for this company!

Boss: You have only sold 2 thingamajigs this quarter.

Mr. Pig:  I have been assigned a territory that consists entirely of vacant houses and cemeteries!

Boss:  No matter.  You are supposed to sell!  In addition, our data show that you do NO WORK from 12-1 each workday.

Mr. Pig:  But 12-1 is my assigned lunch hour!  Company policy dictates that I sign out!

Boss:  All I hear is excuses, Mr. Pig.  Your work is most unsatisfactory, based on our measures.  What is the harm in broadcasting to the company the results of our evaluation?  Are you AGAINST all evaluations?

Mr. Pig:  (silence)

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig


Don't you want more transparency and accountability for your taxpayer dollars? 


And if I'm working my Piggy tail off,I'll have another job in no time.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @Wascatlady I want transparency and accountability that, as in the scenario above, MAKE SENSE!


Re your second point:  I'm sure you will.

bev1972
bev1972

@Astropig Isn't this article suggesting the need for sunlight and transparency in the rating system? Which should be a given.


Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig


I should also clarify,correct and apologize to Maureen.I'm sure that she does want some level of accountability-on her terms.


But that's not how this works.The system is what it is.The whole cost thing is just nonsense.If that money was being wasted in some other area than accountability,we'd never hear of it.But because this shines some light in the dark corners that need illumination,there are some people uncomfortable with that.

kaelyn
kaelyn

Too bad Boss doesn't realize that selling two thingamajigs in Mr. Pig's assigned territory is a major accomplishment. It's not realistic or fair to compare Mr. Pig's performance to a salesperson in Alpharetta, is it?

Astropig
Astropig

@kaelyn


Maybe you're right.But if Mr.Pig tries to keep the truth from the boss,how will we know? What if he phonies up the reports? What if he shades the numbers to make himself look good?


Remember a little outfit named APS? Remember how it was information that smoked out their dishonesty-by this very paper? They hid the truth for years until a couple of shoe-leather reporters started digging.(Then the political games began to get them off the hook).


C'mon guys.Try harder here.This is getting embarrassing for the status quo.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@bev1972 @Astropig @MaureenDowney All for transparency but if you think the CCRPI is transparent, you haven't looked at it. It is dense and impenetrable -- which is why GOSA went the opposite direction with a simplifed A-F system. As for transparency, until I read the UGA research, I had no idea of the wide variations of what other states deemed a B or C school. The differences in state rating systems ought to be told to parents who may wonder why Florida has so many fewer failing schools. 

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney @bev1972 @Astropig 


Nobody will convince me that more transparency is a bad thing.It's kind of a "law of gravity" issue.


I hope that you're as sanguine in a couple of weeks when the state scholarship money gets handed out.I hope that there's nothing to see there also.

Astropig
Astropig

@bev1972 @Astropig


"Isn't this article suggesting the need for sunlight and transparency in the rating system? "


I wish it was.Oh,how I wish it was.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig @MaureenDowney @bev1972


It's one input in an ocean of available data.If it has no credibility with parents,then let them decide that.


This is taking on the flavor of what happens when Wall Street decides to "police itself".Somehow,the " self policing" always makes everything look good.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @kaelyn Actually, Pig, it was on this very blog that the APS scores were called into question, well before those AJC reporters were able to get their hands on the data.  Folks on this very blog did not say, "Well, great for Bev and APS." They said, "Something is rotten in Denmark. Not possible."  Does that sound like people who are willing to overlook duplicity?


I'm beginning to think you are a conspiracy nut.  That we are all "out to get" the other taxpayers, willing and anxious to pull the wool over their eyes.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig Of course, in the scenario above, we have only YOUR WORD that you are working your tail off.  The data (accountability) say something far different.  So do we believe you (who are actually there) or do we believe the NUMBERS the boss has, no matter how bogus they are, how they fail to capture what you ARE doing, against many odds?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @Wascatlady @MaureenDowney @bev1972 Actually, the CCRPI is ITSELF a  ocean of available data.


Since our esteemed legislators cannot seem to parse the credibility of it, why would you think the average parent would be able to or even have the time to?  They count on the leaders of the state to know what they are doing.  These leaders expect citizens to blindly accept what they have come up with.


Years ago,in a nearby state that begins with an A, the legislature crafted a law that gay citizens had to register with the state (that way the police would know where to look if there was a sex crime, because, you know, it is the gay people who commit those).  Surprisingly, there were NO registrants!  Leading the state to be able to assert there were NO GAY people in (that state)!

Did the legislature know what it was doing?  Did they care that each premise was untrue?  Yet they were the "leaders" of that state!

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig


How is it any different from taking JUST the school system's word that they are doing a good job? 


The state is collecting and using this data.My position is that parents,taxpayers and whatnot have the legal right to review it,analyze it and use it in their decision process.If it has no credibility,then that's on the state.


All of this is sort of silly anyway. As pointed out below, (way below,at the bottom),there are literally hundreds of websites that can give parents and potential home buyers all the info that they need to make an informed choice of their kids school. Zeroing in on,and being overly critical of just one source strikes me as just clumsy politics at work,for what purpose,I can only guess.Let the sun shine in.Let everyone know what there is to know and then trust them to make good decisions.I don't see how that can be a problem for the school systems.

kaelyn
kaelyn

@Astropig - I'm one hundred percent for accountability and against the status quo (it ain't working so it absolutely needs to be fixed). However, I can't say that I know how to go about accurately assessing a school's performance. I do know CCRPI isn't the answer.

Astropig
Astropig

@kaelyn


Fine.I get that.Maybe we should have a better system.


But we don't.We have what's out there right now and until it changes,we have to live with it.


This article hits home with me.I'm restoring a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood in ATL. There is an APS school less than 1000 feet away.I could not live with myself if a potential buyer asked only me how good that school is and I was less than honest with them.I want them to have all the info out there and make an informed decision.My situation here is not theoretical-it's actual.So I'm not buying a lot of jive about how parents need only the info that someone with a vested interest decides to give them.

FlaTony
FlaTony

@Astropig Astropig thinks it's okay to waste taxpayers' money chasing after dots and tittles rather than teaching children.

Astropig
Astropig

@FlaTony @Astropig @kaelyn


Just curious- What are you afraid for parents to see? If the zip code schools are so great,why aren't you DEMANDING that these ratings be publicized?


These ratings are inert-they neither make the schools look better or worse than they really look.They are simply information that present facts that already exist.You're disparagement is very telling of what your true motives are here.


Tennessee is about to introduce a similar system (A-F grading of schools).


http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/education/2017/01/06/minority-student-achievement-play-bigger-role-school-accountability/95430348/


I'd not be surprised to see other states and districts go in this direction.I think that it's a very good thing to let the sun shine in on how things are doing in classrooms.

Astropig
Astropig

@FlaTony @Astropig


Fla Tony thinks it's okay to let schools slide by for decades with no measurable improvement.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I believe the CCRPI has been changed EVERY YEAR since it came into existence!


In my perfect world, our legislators would have to take the tests the CCRRPI uses, in the same situation many of our children find themselves: Not being able to log-in, being kicked off and having to restart repeatedly, and all the other "bugs" that plague many of the testing situations.  Not just take the tests, but have the legislature EVALUATED on similar indicators, and the results published statewide!

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

An op-ed in the Sacramento Bee this week addresses this issue: Here is an excerpt of that column:


If only that new system would actually hold schools accountable, or even gave parents and the public a reasonably lucid understanding of how well schools were doing and how much they were improving, compared with other schools.

Instead, what the state has produced is a bewildering grid of numbers and coded colors on so many different aspects that it looks suspiciously like the education board is trying to deliberately obscure the reality of school performance. That’s exactly what reformers and civil rights groups accuse it of doing.

The grid scores an overly broad list of school characteristics, some more important than others, in such a way that it is pretty much impossible to compare schools. Is the local charter better than the magnet school that is not quite as good as the traditional public school? Good luck with that one.

Parents aren’t looking to be drowned in primary-colored data sets about school climate and family involvement. They want to know if their kids will learn – not to mention that the state still hasn’t told anyone how it will identify the bottom 5 percent of schools, the ones where it is obligated to intervene under federal law.


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/article123852324.html#storylink=cpy

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

These ratings do one thing fairly well:  They justify employment for folks in the state DOE who rush around with papers in their hands to meetings where their pronouncements are supposed to be IMPORTANT, some folks at the district level, and they let their legislators say they are "doing something."  God knows, they aren't looking at financing the schools as QBE REQUIRES, and never have.  Nor do most of them actually making any personal effort to find out what is going on in schools.

kaelyn
kaelyn

I do think that parents care about school ratings, but not the state ratings. Most of the parents I know have gone to the GreatSchools website to research school ratings when looking to purchase a home. I'd rather get information from parents than from a highly flawed assessment.

Our high school practically beats parents over the head each year to get us to fill out the CCRPI climate surveys, but very few parents do. Even among involved parents of high performing students, the perception is that the surveys don't matter as our responses are not valued beyond calculating a number.