During his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal said developing a new plan to help struggling schools will be a priority this Legislative session. In November, voters said "no" to Deal's original plan to turn those schools around. His Opportunity School District proposal would have let the state take over schools it deemed “chronically failing.” Any school that made an F on the state’s report card system for three consecutive years would have been eligible for take over under the plan.
Recently, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement updated its list of failing schools. Twenty-six schools were added last year, bringing the total up to 153. The governor said 89,000 students attended those schools last year.
“It should be abundantly clear to everyone, including those in the education community who staunchly support the status quo, that this is unacceptable,” Deal said during his address. “If this pattern of escalation in the number of failing schools does not change, its devastating effects on our state will grow with each passing school year.”
The governor was tight-lipped on specifics, but he did say a new plan may include letting students transfer out of failing schools. And he indicated a new proposal will focus on elementary schools, since they make up 70 percent of so-called "failing" schools.
“If we can eliminate this negative, that directly or indirectly affects all of us, we will see our reading comprehension scores, our math skills, our graduation rates and the quality of our workforce in general, improve,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state is in the process of reviewing its grading system, called the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). A recent University of Georgia study said it's too stringent.
Georgia Association of Educators President Sid Chapman agreed.
“The formula, we really need to take a look at it, because achievement is a very small piece, and so all of these other factors make [them] failing school[s],” Chapman said.
Chapman said the CCRPI places to much weight on academic improvement, which tends to be sluggish in low-income areas. Changes to the CCRPI could affect the number of schools the state identifies as “failing.” The review is required by the new federal education law, called the Every Student Succeeds Act.
During his address, Deal also said he'll propose a 2 percent pay raise for teachers. The increase would be built into the pay scale, so districts couldn't use the money for anything else.
The governor said he wasn’t pleased last year when some districts used money earmarked for raises to fill other holes in their budgets.