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AYP Results Out Thursday; Ivy Prep Proposes Two DeKalb Campuses

Mike Klein

Thursday will be a headline maker when the state releases 2011 graduation rate data and AYP – the Adequate Yearly Progress reports that are tied to the No Child Left Behind initiative.  The state will not break out its voluminous data into special subsets – for instance, Atlanta Public Schools that were identified for test cheating during a recent special prosecutors’ investigation.

Last week a department official said DOE would report two graduation rates – the “Leaver Rate” that has been traditionally used with AYP evaluations and the new “Cohort Rate” that all schools nationwide must use starting next year.  DOE has data for both methods but on Wednesday a spokesman said it will hold back reporting the “Cohort Rate” until this fall.

The “Leaver Rate” is often knocked for producing artificially high numbers because at best it is an estimate that does not count all students, for instance, dropouts.  The “Cohort Rate” method tracks every student over four years and it is considered to be much more accurate.

Last year Georgia reported an 80 percent graduation rate using the “Leaver” method.  A state DOE official said the 2011 “Cohort Rate” could be 15 percent lower – a significant difference.  AYP and graduation data will be posted on the DOE website at about 2:00pm Thursday.

Ivy Prep Proposes DeKalb County Campuses

Meanwhile, Ivy Prep Academy could become three schools under an idea unveiled Wednesday.  The high profile Gwinnett County-based all-girls charter school has applied for two state special school charters – one each for new boys and girls schools in DeKalb County.  Ivy Prep officials were not available to discuss the new plan, but a state official explained how it might work.

“They’re able to do this because they were denied by the DeKalb Board of Education last Monday night, July 11,” said Louis Erste, state DOE charter schools division director.  The state board of education could vote on Ivy’s two petitions at its August 10 meeting, or even earlier.

Ivy Prep requested DeKalb permission to open boys and girls schools in the county during the 2012 – 2013 school year.  The board said no.  It also rejected Ivy’s request for DeKalb local dollars to support DeKalb resident girls who already attend the Academy’s Gwinnett location.

State special charter authorization for DeKalb boys and girls would appear to improve Ivy Prep’s financial position.  Currently the Academy has 200 DeKalb girls in the Gwinnett location but this fall there will be no local share dollars from Gwinnett or DeKalb to support their instruction.  This would increase the amount of per pupil state assistance.  The original location would continue to operate under as a Gwinnett school system local charter.

Ivy Prep’s petition filed with DOE Wednesday was not released.  The school could locate boys and girls inside one building or in different buildings.  One possible location could be the Atlanta address for Peachtree Hope Charter School which will not open next month.  Peachtree withdrew its DeKalb County application and it has not applied for a state special school charter.

DeKalb County resident parents of Ivy Prep students could soon be faced with a decision about where to send their children.  “It will be a family decision in each case,” said Erste at DOE.  “The girls that are at Gwinnett could continue to go to Gwinnett if they so choose.”

Extra Charter School Funds Possible

In another move, the state may have a found a way to increase the base award paid to four schools that were originally authorized by the now defunct state charter schools commission.  The four schools could see their individual awards increase by $300,000 to about $1 million.

Three eligible schools will open this fall – Cherokee Charter Academy in Canton, Heritage Prep Academy in Atlanta and the statewide digital learning Georgia Connections Academy.  Provost Academy is the fourth school; it would receive funds to prepare for a fall 2012 opening.

Erste said the state DOE is encouraged about its prospects after conversations with the U.S. Department of Education which must approve the change.   “They’ve indicated there shouldn’t be a problem but until you get the final answer you don’t have it,” Erste said.  The increase would apply only to former commission schools that did not previously receive a base award.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

July 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Georgia High School Graduation Rate Could Take a Steep 15% Plunge

Mike Klein

Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Erroll Davis recently described high school graduation rates as “great works of art.”  Next week the state Department of Education is expected to release new data that will make it seem like the rate fell off a cliff, down perhaps 15 percent.

Also next week, the Southern Regional Education Board will warn policy makers, educators, parents and anyone else who listens that the new national model for tracking students might result in significantly lower graduation rates.  The number will be more honest if not perfect.

SREB’s “Transitioning to the New High School Graduation Rate” will say “some states may see a decline, especially those that have mistakenly counted dropouts as transfers and those that have counted as a graduate a student who earned a credential other than a regular diploma.”  SREB is headquartered in Atlanta; it advocates for improvement in K-12 public schools and higher education in 16 states, including Georgia.

Nine months ago Governor Sonny Perdue’s office announced the state’s 2010 graduation rate rose to an all-time high at 80.8 percent – up 17 percentage points in seven years.  The governor credited his graduation coach program. “We did something no other state had even thought of – put a graduation coach in every middle and high school and focused their efforts on students at risk of dropping out,” Perdue said.

This was a watershed moment for the outgoing administration because Perdue had made an 80 percent graduation rate an important goal of his education initiatives.  The state reported actual graduates grew from 65,213 to some 91,561 seven years later, a real improvement.

A source who is familiar with the anticipated Department of Education report indicated the 2011 graduation rate “will likely be at least 15 percentage points lower.”  How does that happen?  Well, that takes us back to how Erroll Davis described graduation rates – “great works of art.”

Georgia and 31 other states have used what education insiders describe as the “Leaver Rate” – which is defined on the Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement website as “an estimate of the percentage of students who entered ninth grade and graduated four years later.”

Beginning with the 2011-2012 school year all states must adopt exactly the same formula that tracks every high school student from ninth grade through graduation or any other result that includes dropouts and GED credentials.  It also requires a better effort documenting transfer students.  It has a name – Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate.  Georgia will report it this year.

Actually, the state Department of Education will report two graduation rates next week … a “Leaver” traditional rate that will be used in the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) calculations and the “Cohort” rate that will be the new standard rate going forward for all states.

“Georgia is reporting its new graduation rate even before the federal regulations take hold requiring states to report the new rates, which reflects well on the state’s leaders,” said SREB communications director Alan Richard.

As the SREB will report next week, “Cohort” will produce more honest results because “it is not an estimate and requires states to follow students from school to school in the state – no longer mistaking students who drop out as transfers.  For years, states have over-reported transfers and under-reported dropouts, which produced inflated graduation rates.”

All students who enter ninth grade in any given year become the new freshman cohort.  Each student will have a unique identifier.  Student progress – or lack of progress – during the next four years will be tracked.  Because each student will have his or her own unique identifier it will be possible to know who graduated, who transferred and to where, and who dropped out.

Besides “Leaver” – the calculation method Georgia has traditionally used – some states have used the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate.  AFGR compares graduates to ninth graders four years earlier and it makes no attempt to account for transfers.  Using the AFGR method, next week SREB will report Georgia’s 2008-2009 graduation rate was 67.8 percent.

Remembering what Erroll Davis said about “great works of art” – there is yet another method, the Cumulative Promotion Index which simply tracks how many students advance year-to-year. Using that method, next week SREB will report Georgia’s 2006-2007 rate was 57.8 percent.

That would mean at least four methods to calculate graduation rates have been in play for several years, and no wonder it causes confusion.  “Because states were allowed to choose among these types, the results were not comparable from state to state,” SREB will report next week.  “Even states using the same type of calculation did not figure the data the same way.”

SREB communications director Richard said the new Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate “likely will be the most accurate high school graduation rate yet and is considered by all to be ‘the gold standard.’   We now have the data systems to track more accurately whether students really transfer between schools and districts and states, or whether they leave school entirely.”

SREB’s “Transitioning to the New High School Graduation Rate” will name Georgia among six southern states that use data effectively and seem well-positioned to change how they report graduation rates.  Others are Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland and Virginia.

“Some SREB states expect their graduation rates will drop when they begin reporting the four-year ACGR,” the report says. “Those states need to focus on direct communication with key constituencies and the media to ensure that messages about what has changed are timely, clear and accurate.”

Now we return you to “great works of art” – Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Lady Gaga!

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

July 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment