Jeff Rose is the superintendent of Fulton County Schools. In this column, Rose talks about the College and Career Ready Performance Index, the accountability metric with which Georgia grades its k-12 public schools.
The grades were released today. While pleased with his district's grades, Rose says there are other indicators that also confirm Fulton is improving and better serving students.
By Jeff Rose
Recently in this column, AJC reporter Maureen Downey asked if parents care about the College and Career Readiness Performance Index, which Georgia uses as a barometer to measure schools.
I am a parent of a Fulton County Schools sixth grader, as well as a freshman in high school. Like all parents, I love my children and have high hopes for them. I could write a book summarizing everything I want for them to experience in their lifetime and in this world. I promise that my description of this would not include a set of digits reflecting a test score. My dreams for them are much higher than a test score could ever describe.
Yet, I think we can agree that tests are good as long as they are put into perspective and we use the information to move forward and improve. I believe failing is simply feedback and not a determination of holistic potential or intelligence. After all, a growth mindset and a level of grit have a significant impact on one’s ability to navigate life’s challenges successfully.
Accountability in schools is at an all-time high both nationally and locally. As an educational leader, this is something I embrace. In Fulton County Schools, we will be responsible for our student’s education, and go above and beyond what the state requires. We have evidence that what our school district focuses on, we improve.
Last year, we had very focused and serious discussions about the corrections needed. Thus, our new strategic plan thoroughly measures what we want to be known for and has established a system to support schools based on the academic needs of the students. We have established a strategic goal “to prepare all students to graduate ready to pursue and succeed on their chosen paths.”
Due to the hard work of our staff over the past number of years and our recent focus on results and school-centric supports, I am proud to say that the 2016-17 school year was perhaps the best Fulton County Schools experienced in recent history:
•Our district CCRPI average rose 3.3 points from last year, giving Fulton County Schools its highest-ever score of 78.
•Each level of Fulton schools experienced increases. Elementary scores rose 4.3 points to 77.6, middle school scores increased two points to 72.8, and high schools improved by 2.9 points to 82.4.
•Using the state’s 100-point scale and letter grades correlated to it, Fulton reduced its overall number of “F” schools (school scoring below a 60) from 28 to 18.
•26 out of 28 “F” schools saw improvement from the previous year.
•The number of “A” (scoring 90 or above) and “B” schools (scoring 80 or above) grew from 44 to 50.
•Seventeen schools had double-digit gains from the previous year.
Climate Star Ratings:
•30 schools received a 5-Star rating, an increase of 10 schools from 2016 and a dramatic change from 2015 when only four schools fell within that range.
•64 percent of schools in 2017 have a 4- or 5-star rating as compared to 54 percent in 2016.
Other Indicators of Success:
•Our graduation rate is at an all-time high of 86.8 percent, and Fulton County Schools continues to lead the large systems in the metro Atlanta area.
•100 percent of high schools in south Fulton had increases to their graduation rate.
•We also have achieved our highest-ever ACT average score and increased the number of students who took it.
•We’re also proud that 123 students have been named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists – another record-breaker for Fulton County Schools.
Recently, we set a goal that within three years Fulton County Schools will have zero schools on the state’s “Chronically Failing” list, and now we are celebrating that six of our 14 schools scored highly enough to be removed. Clearly, we are well on our way to zero.
Admittedly, the true narrative of a school cannot be summarized in a grade or even in an algorithm of indicators. Still, we own our results, and every child deserves to attend a successful school.
School success and improvement is complicated work, and there is no silver bullet. Like our strategic plan states, we must have an unrelenting focus on student achievement. Our people and culture must be nurtured, and collaborating with our community is a must. Also, we need to be fiscally responsible to ensure our resources are positively impacting our kids. We know we have a long way to go, but it is important to celebrate success along the way. Now is that time for Fulton County Schools!
I am grateful and blessed to live, serve, and lead in Fulton County Schools. The future for our district is bright, and I have no doubt that the best is yet to come.