‘Beating the Odds’: Which Columbus area schools are and aren’t better than expected?

Fifth-graders plant kale in their school garden for Farm to School Month

South Columbus National Honor Society students learn life skills with their outdoor garden. The Muscogee County School District was recognized with the 2017 Georgia Organics Golden Radish Award for its work with Farm to Schools programming
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South Columbus National Honor Society students learn life skills with their outdoor garden. The Muscogee County School District was recognized with the 2017 Georgia Organics Golden Radish Award for its work with Farm to Schools programming

The number of Muscogee County schools “Beating the Odds” decreased for the second straight year after increasing in each of the previous four years.

“Beating the Odds” is a statistical analysis by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement that compares a school’s scores on the College and Career Ready Performance Index with the CCRPI of other Georgia schools having similar characteristics.

This year, 20 of Muscogee County’s 54 public schools received the “Beating the Odds” designation, dropping from 29 in 2017 and 35 in 2016. The numbers were 26 in 2015, 20 in 2014, 14 in 2013 and 13 in 2012, which was the first year GOSA did the analysis.

And this year, GOSA added a category to its “Beating the Odds” report. Instead of reporting only whether schools did or didn’t beat the odds, GOSA has noted whether the schools that didn’t beat the odds also failed to meet the “Expected Range” for their CCRPI score.

So in 2018, out of 54 schools in MCSD, 20 are “Beating the Odds” (37 percent), 22 are “Within Expected Range” (41 percent) and 12 are “Below Expected Range” (22 percent).

Compared to the three other school districts serving the state’s second-tier cities, MCSD is second out of the four in highest percentage of “Beating the Odds” schools and tied for first in lowest percentage of “Below Expected Range” schools.

Out of the 35 public schools in Bibb County (Macon), nine are “Beating the Odds” (26 percent), 15 are “Within Expected Range” (43 percent) and 11 are “Below Expected Range” (31 percent).

Out of the 55 public schools in Chatham County (Savannah), 16 are “Beating the Odds” (29 percent), 27 are “Within Expected Range” (49 percent) and 12 are “Below Expected Range” (22 percent).

Out of the 55 public schools in Richmond County (Augusta), 21 are “Beating the Odds” (38 percent), 18 are “Within Expected Range” (33 percent) and 16 are “Below Expected Range” (29 percent).

As the Ledger-Enquirer reported in October, Muscogee’s overall 2018 CCRPI of 71.7 ranks second out of the four, slightly behind Chatham County (Savannah) 71.9 and significantly ahead of Richmond County (Augusta) 68.3 and Bibb County (Macon) 67.2. The state average is 76.6.

Here are the “Beating the Odds” designations for the MCSD schools, with their 2018 CCRPI score, which is on a 100-point scale:

Beating the Odds

Eleven elementary schools: Double Churches 86.1, Mathews 86.1, Clubview 83.3, Downtown 76, Gentian 75.2, St. Marys Road 73.4, South Columbus 73, Rigdon Road 70.7, Waddell 69.6, Lonnie Jackson 69.1 and Fox 56.7.

Five middle schools: Veterans Memorial 85.7, Aaron Cohn 79.8, Richards 79.2, Midland 73.1 and Eddy 63.7.

Four high schools: Columbus 96.5, Early College 89.6, Carver 71.8 and Hardaway 69.9.

“I am very pleased with the tremendous work being done by these school communities,” Muscogee County School District superintendent David Lewis said in a news release. “This recognition distinguishes them as leaders within schools having similar characteristics throughout the state for which they and we, as a community, can and should be very proud.”

Within Expected Range

Eleven elementary schools: Britt David 96.5, Eagle Ridge 77.8, Midland 75.6, Hannan 69.7, Forrest Road 69.3, Johnson 67.1, Dimon 67, Wesley Heights 64.4, Wynnton 63.7, Key 63.4 and Georgetown 56.6.

Five middle schools: Blackmon Road 79.5, Double Churches 64.1, Fort 64, East Columbus 62.9 and Baker 58.1.

Five high schools: Northside 79.8, Shaw 72.7, Spencer 61.8, Jordan 58.4 and Kendrick 56.3.

One middle/high school: Rainey-McCullers 77.5.

Below Expected Range

Ten elementary schools: North Columbus 75.9, Blanchard 73.9, Allen 65.4, Reese Road 61.3, River Road 60.6, Davis 51.5, Dawson 52.1, Brewer 50.7, Dorothy Height 47 and Martin Luther King Jr. 45.8.

Two middle schools: Arnold 55 and Rothschild 44.3.

No high schools.

The Ledger-Enquirer asked Lewis why the number of MCSD schools “Beating the Odds” decreased for the second straight year after increasing in each of the previous four years and what MCSD is doing to turn the trend in a positive direction again.

“As for a comparison to previous years, a year-to-year comparison can’t be made from last year to this year due to the changes in CCRPI as well as subsequent changes to the BTO criteria and calculation methodology,” Lewis said via email.

Harris County

One of seven public schools in Harris County received the “Beating the Odds” designation, two are “Within Expected Range” and four are “Below Expected Range” this year.

Beating the Odds: New Mountain Hill Elementary School 88.5.

Within Expected Range: Harris County Carver Middle School 78.4 and Pine Ridge Elementary School 77.5.

Below Expected Range: Harris County High School 76.2, Creekside School (grades 5-6) 71, Mulberry Creek Elementary School 70.1 and Park Elementary School 65.2.

David Dennie, the assistant superintendent for curriculum in Harris County, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an emailed interview, “We have high expectations of our schools, teachers and students, and look forward to the challenges that are presented in this report and others, such as CCRPI.”

Administrators have identified student skills throughout the district, such as reading and writing, for teachers to focus on in their professional development and instruction, Dennie said.

“This focus will improve the content mastery and progress indicators,” he said. “We will continue to support our students, faculty and staff to be the best they can be, and provide the time and resources needed to make this happen.”

Dennie noted Harris County schools received positive survey results from students, parents and teachers in the 2018 School Climate Star Ratings, which the Ledger-Enquirer reported in October. He also noted Harris County outperformed the state average on 91 percent of the 2018 Georgia Milestones tests, which the Ledger-Enquirer reported in July.

Asked what was the major factor in New Mountain Hill’s 2018 success, Dennie said it was becoming certified as a STEAM school (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

The 3rd Annual Let’s Grow STEAM Youth College and Careers Expo drew students from across the Chattahoochee Valley to the Columbus Convention and Trade Center to explore STEAM( science, technology, engineering, arts and math) careers and education.

“Students are missing fewer school days and are more engaged in the interdisciplinary content and after-school programs,” he said.

The STEAM certification involved teachers pairing with community members to foster “an environment more conducive to learning,” Dennie said. “Multiple business, community and postsecondary partnerships were directly involved with connecting to in-class, project/problem-based learning performances and effectively exposing students to STEAM within careers.”

Teachers participated in STEAM professional development throughout the year and collaborated on weekly plans to integrate the arts into their lessons, Dennie said.

“This implementation allowed for teachers to have more leadership roles and a voice in the decision-making process,” he said.

Mulberry Creek was the only Harris County school that “Beat the Odds” in 2017. The results were much better in 2016, when Park was the only Harris County school that didn’t. The results were the opposite in 2015, when Mulberry Creek was the only “Beat the Odds” school in the district. Mulberry Creek and Park did in 2014. Mulberry Creek was the only one in 2013. And no Harris County school did in 2012.

Asked what is being done to help the schools that are “Below Expected Range,” Dennie said, “The district is currently in the process of creating an advisory committee comprised of teachers, administrators and central office personnel, who will analyze the comprehensive needs identified within the schools and by CCRPI indicators. Data analysis and teacher feedback will be used in devising common formative assessments based on local and state pacing guides along with the standards.”

“Identification of below grade-level students also will allow for further services to be put in place, resulting in more long-range impacts. We are continuing to shift student performance positively by participating in continuous school improvement and district-wide planning. Ultimately, these scores do not define this school system, how we react and respond to them does.”

Chattahoochee County

All three of ChattCo’s schools earned the “Beating the Odds” designation this year: Chattahoochee County High School 80.9, Chattahoochee County Middle School 75.3 and Chattahoochee County Education Center 74.3.

In 2017, the high school was the only school to “Beat the Odds” in ChattCo. The high school and elementary school did it in 2016. Only the elementary school did in 2012-15.

In an emailed interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, ChattCo assistant superintendent Tabatha Walton said the district’s improvement “is the result of a deep collaboration of efforts among our students, parents, district and community.”

Asked for the major factor fueling the improvement, Walton said, “Since September 2014, under the leadership of (superintendent) David McCurry, our district has put academic improvement at the top of our school improvement efforts. I think there are two major factors that have improved ChattCo’s performance: Building successful internal and external relationships in the school district and community; and developing a system of accountability.”

Walton added, “We realize that there is still much work to do. We celebrate our success, and we continue to strive towards greater improvement.”

Calculation factors

GOSA includes the following school characteristics in its “Beating the Odds” calculation:

Percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

Percentage of English language learners.

Percentage of students with disabilities.

Percentage of students in each race/ethnicity.

Percentage of female students..

Student mobility.

School size.

Whether the school is defined as non-traditional.

School type (elementary, middle, high and schools that span grade clusters).

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.