Bulloch County Schools Recognized as Top Performers

For the second straight year, two Bulloch County public schools were recognized as two of the top performers under the state’s accountability system.

Brooklet Elementary and Portal Middle High schools were named “Reward” schools under the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, according to information released Tuesday.

The Reward category has two subcategories. Brooklet was named one of 78 “Highest Performing” schools for being in the top 5 percent of the state’s Title I schools with the highest absolute performance over the last three years for all students on the statewide Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. This is the third straight year Brooklet received this designation.

Portal Middle High was named one of 156 “Highest Progress” schools for being among the top 10 percent of the state’s Title I schools showing the most improvement for all students over three years in statewide assessments – in this case, the CRCT for middle school students and the high school End-of-Course Tests. Portal received this designation for the second consecutive year.

Title I schools receive extra federal money because they have high concentrations of students in low-income families.

“The schools on this list represent some of the finest efforts being put forth in Georgia education,” State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said in a news release Tuesday. “The educators, parents, students and communities who came together to move these schools forward should take great pride in the results.”

Brooklet Principal Marlin Baker said the school’s honor was a team effort. Brooklet posted the highest scores on all four academic subjects on the CRCT in the Bulloch County school system.

“Essential to our success are the highly motivated students as well as their involved parents, who are very supportive of both teachers and students,” Baker in a statement released Tuesday by the district.

Another key to Brooklet’s higher student achievement, the principal said, is the faculty’s effective use of “professional learning communities.” These communities are designed to allow teachers to better plan their instruction, analyze student test results, discuss student strengths and weaknesses, and plan ways to help students improve on their academic problem areas.

“I am deeply appreciative of the continual efforts of our outstanding faculty and staff,” Baker said.

Portal Middle High administrators point to changing the school’s schedule to a seven-period day from the previous block schedule, providing remediation opportunities and faculty collaboration as key factors in the school’s steady progress since 2010.

“Our teachers and students are responsible for this tremendous academic growth,” said first-year principal, Dr. Karen Doty, who came from Langston Chapel Elementary. The previous Portal principal was Dr. Shawn Haralson, who is now at Doty’s former school.

Portal’s student benchmark scores on the ACT have improved in all subjects since 2010, bringing them more in line with their district and state peers. Graduates in the Class of 2014 posted a 20.2 overall composite score, the second highest in the district and up from a low of 16.4 among 2011 graduates. Students also exceeded the state’s composite score of 20.7 in science by scoring 21.

Portal students posted the district’s highest EOCT scores in five of eight tested subjects: analytic geometry, ninth-grade literature, physical science, American literature and economics. Members of the Class of 2013 posted the school’s highest SAT scores in more than seven years, and although these results were just slightly lower among 2014 graduates, the five-year change in scores was up 15 points for critical reading, 40 points for writing and 12 points for math.

Portal’s middle-grades students also performed well on the CRCT, posting the district’s highest overall math and science scores and the second highest scores for reading and social studies out of four middle schools.

“Being a combined middle and high school allows students a place to grow for seven years and build strong relationships with faculty members,” said Doty. “Having that consistency really is ideal.”

In 2012, CCRPI replaced Adequate Yearly Progress as an indicator of school performance for the state’s Title I schools. Thirteen of Bulloch County’s 15 schools are Title I designees, with the exception of Statesboro and Southeast Bulloch high schools.

“Reward” status is one of four accountability designations for Title I schools as part of Georgia’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver that was approved by the U.S. Department of Education in 2012. The other three are “Priority,” “Focus” and “Alert.” Criteria for placing schools in the Priority, Focus and Reward categories are set by the federal education department, and the state sets criteria for the Alert list.

None of the Bulloch County school system’s campuses is identified as Priority or Alert. William James Middle and Julia P. Bryant Elementary were designated as Focus schools in 2012 because of a significant achievement gap between their highest academic achievers and their special education subgroups based on 2009-2011 CRCT results. Focus is a three-year designation, and the schools are in their final year.

Also, the tests on which these ratings are based are ending. This year, the state will implement the new Georgia Milestone Assessment System, which replaces CRCT and EOCT exams. The Milestone tests are to be more closely aligned with the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards and will be given in grades three through eight and the end of some high school courses, just as the CRCT and EOCT assessments were.

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