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Sumter County Schools make gains

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — Walter Knighton, associate superintendent for curriculum for Sumter County Schools, recently gave a presentation board of education on the CCRPI (College and Career Ready Performance Index) results for the 2016-17 school year.
The local public school system showed a slight improvement in scores and larger improvement in the graduation rate.
The system’s mission is to graduate to all students, and its vision is to ensure that all students receive an equitable education and graduate college and career ready.
Sumter County Schools’ CCRPI scores increased across the district, from 58.6 in 2016, to 59.5 in 2017. The school system’s four-year graduation rate is 89.3 percent which is the second highest in the RESA district. Historically, the graduation rate has risen from 65.9 percent in 2013, to the current 80.3 percent.
“We want to celebrate that we are moving toward achieving our mission, which is to graduate all students,” Knighton said.
CCRPI is a tool employed to show the system the driving force behind the decisions that are made in educating students, Knighton said, “and we use it as a way of measuring the extent of whether or not our district, school and state are providing high-quality opportunities for our students.”
The redesigned CCRPI includes five components: content mastery, progress, closing gaps, readiness, and graduation rate.
Knighton described the key changes as follow:
•    streamlined and simplified so that it is easy to understand, easy to communicate, and easy to utilize for improvement purposes.
•    to earn extra points in progress for high levels of growth.
•    preserving local flexibility to determine the best way to improve student performance and outcomes.
•    A Beyond the Core indicator at the elementary and middle school levels will incentivize student participation in enrichment courses beyond the traditional academic core. This indicator is in response to stakeholder feedback that students are not experiencing a well-rounded curriculum.
•    The Student Attendance indicator will be calculated based on a nationally-utilized metric of student attendance — absent less than 10 percent of enrolled days. This definition is flexible enough to account for varying school calendars and provides a better representation of chronic absenteeism, which can signal a lack of student engagement, school climate issues, and a lack of preparation for college and career.
•    Improvement targets will be calculated individually — or customized — for each school and district. This takes into consideration schools’ starting points and provides incentive to focus on continuous, sustainable improvements.
•    The closing gaps component provides an opportunity for schools to show improvement with all students and all subgroups of students by utilizing progress toward meeting achievement improvement targets.
•    CCRPI will emphasize student growth and improvement. The progress and closing gaps components will account for 50 percent of the elementary and middle school CCRPI scores and 40 percent of the high school CCRPI score.
•    The Georgia Department of Education will develop a new CCRPI reporting system that will be easier to navigate and will provide more context and comparative information.
Knighton explained to the board that configuration plays a significant part in on how the CCRPI scores come out — based on the specific student achievement on the Georgia Milestones. Looking at last year’s data compared to this year’s data, Americus-Sumter High School increased by 2 percent; Americus-Sumter Ninth Grade Academy increased by 17 percent; Sumter County Middle School achieved a 14 percent increase.
Sumter County Intermediate School experienced a decrease from the previous year because previously there were only grades 5 and 6, and last year it included grades 4, 5, and 6, which changes the data points. He said with the CCRPI they only calculate English language arts and mathematics; they do not utilize science and social studies. At the lower grade levels they changed from a whole point to three-quarters of a point for English language arts and math, and quarter of a point for science and social studies.
At Sumter County Elementary School, there was no CCRPI score.
“You have to have student achievement on Georgia Milestone as well as progress,” Knighton explained. The previous year at Sumter Elementary, they had grades 3 and 4, and now it is grades 2 and 3 and there is no Georgia Milestone in grade 2, so you would not have a progress score from the previous year. “So, they cannot calculate a CCRPI score. Furlow Charter School and Sumter County Primary School do not have Georgia Milestones but both decreased slightly, based on achievement points.
Knighton also explained that an area that is not tied to the CCRPI, “but is big for us when we look at any type of improvement, is the school climate rating which is important to input any of the initiatives.”
Ratings, a data piece not tied to the CCRPI, is based on attendance, discipline, and Georgia student health surveys. The climate ratings range from 5 stars (excellent) to 1 start (unsatisfactory).
The Climate ratings for Sarah Cobb/Sumter County Early Learning Center increased from 2 (2014-2015) to 4 (2015-2016) with no rating available for 2017 due to changes. Sumter Primary increased from 2 to 4 in the same period and Sumter Elementary went from 2 to 3. Staley/Sumter County Intermediate increased from 1 to 2 while Sumter Middle also improved from 2 to 3. Americus-Sumter Ninth Grade Academy remained at a 2 while Americus-Sumter High held at a 3. Furlow Charter School remained at a 2.
In the area of attendance, the 2012-2014 CCRPI rates by total days present and total days enrolled. In 2015-2017, the CCRPI rates on student enrollment reports and number of students missing fewer than six days of school. The attendance rate is benchmarked at the 95th percentile based on the 2014-2015 state level data.
The schoolwide attendance component is based on average daily attendance rate of students, average daily attendance rate of teachers, average daily attendance rate of administrators, and average daily attendance rate of staff.
Knighton also talked about the Turnaround Eligible School List. In the state of Georgia, the list operated off of two accountability systems:
1)    Governor’s Office of Student Achievement – includes all the schools in the state
2)    Georgia Department of Education — provides specific reports; labels schools as priority or rewards schools. It’s for Title I schools only and does not include all schools in the state.
He said that for the Turnaround Eligible School list, they look at the average CCRPI score for the past three years and take the average CCRPI score. If the school falls within the lowest 5 percent of all schools in the state, that’s how they end up on the Turnaround Eligible School list.
“Here in Sumter County we only have one school that falls in that category, which is the Ninth Grade Academy, which we see has had increase in performance of 17 percent,” he said.