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US Department of Education won't be grading Georgia schools the usual way

The department approved the State School Superintendent's request to make amendments.

ATLANTA — Public schools in Georgia will face relaxed federal standards, thanks to a request made by the state's top education official.

The U.S. Department of Education approved State School Superintendent Richard Woods' request to amend how the DOE will hold the state accountable for student learning.

In its approval, DOE officials wrote in a letter, "Georgia requested these amendments to account for short-term changes to its system of annual meaningful differentiation for the 2021-2022 school year due to extraordinary circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic," referencing waivers the Department granted the state from accountability and assessment requirements from the previous two school years, which were largely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The letter was addressed on May 26.

Woods notified superintendents of the DOE's approval in a June 2 email, outlining how the state has now restructured its College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI).

Under the amendments approved by the DOE, Georgia has made several  adjustments to "account for data limitations resulting from the pandemic."

Here's what will change -- and what won't, according to Woods' email:

  • No summative ratings
    • There will be no overall 0-100 scores, including letter grades for the state, districts or schools. However, there will still be scores for the indicators and components that the state can calculate, such as its benchmark for content mastery.
  • Content Mastery 
    • No change in this calculation. Participation rates will be reported and used to adjust achievement rates if participation is below 95%, according to Georgia's Department of Education.
  • Progress
    • English language arts and math progress will not be reported. Georgia will use testing data to establish a new post-pandemic baseline. Progress toward English language proficiency will continue to be reported. 
  • Closing gaps 
    • Will not be calculated for 2022. Instead, testing data for 2022 will be used to establish a new baseline for the future.
  • Student attendance will not be reported
    • As it was impacted by illness and quarantines. There will be no changes to the literacy, beyond the core, accelerated enrollment or pathway competition indicators. 
  • Graduation rate
    • There will be no changes to the four and five-year adjusted cohort graduation rate calculations.

"We structured our request to ensure that the 2022 CRRPI is realistic and takes into account the extraordinary circumstances of the past two years," Woods wrote in an email to Georgia superintendents. "Our goal is to establish a new baseline, rather than compare your schools' performance to pre-pandemic norms."

11Alive's La'Tasha Givens took parent questions to the state superintendent's office and learned these adjustments will not affect state funding, scholarships or college admissions, according to a spokesperson for Georgia's DOE. 

Georgia's DOE said its decision to still collect metric information is to help inform schools about a student's progress. Students will still have data under CCRPI, but the state's education agency points out that teachers, schools and even districts have also been working with students all year to assess how they are doing academically, beyond the state and federal-mandated benchmarks.

With these changes, the CCRPI will be required for 2022 but won't be in its entirety. The hope is with data collection and lax grading of districts, Georgia's public schools can create a new starting line and benchmarks as the state continues to push past the coronavirus pandemic.

   

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