Traditional Grading System Could Be Overturned In Georgia

Georgia’s public school accountability system is undergoing significant changes, as the state Department of Education released a comprehensive report on school performance for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This new report signifies a shift away from the previous A-to-F letter grade system that has faced criticism for its heavy reliance on standardized testing and its tendency to label lower-performing schools as failing.

State Superintendent Richard Woods has long advocated for a more nuanced approach to evaluating schools, arguing that a single number cannot capture the complexity of factors that influence school quality. In October, Woods received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to abandon calculating a single score in the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). This move aligns with his vision for a more comprehensive assessment.

Instead of a single score, Georgia’s revamped accountability system now focuses on specific components of the index, including readiness, academic content mastery, progression, on-time high school graduation, and closing educational gaps for underperforming groups. These measures provide a more detailed and nuanced understanding of a district’s performance, with separate measures for different grade levels.

The latest report shows an increase in content mastery for the 2022-2023 school year compared to the previous year, reflecting the rise in standardized test scores released earlier this year. However, test scores have not yet fully recovered from the impact of the pandemic, with content mastery growth being more pronounced in elementary grades than in high school grades.

Allison Timberlake, Deputy State Superintendent, emphasized the practical significance of the increase in content mastery scores across Georgia’s 1.75 million students. While the state does not calculate improvement or decline of statistical significance for score changes, Timberlake believes the improvement is noteworthy.

Woods also highlighted the highest-ever levels reached in progress and readiness scores. However, changes in the calculation method for readiness scores make them incomparable to previous years. Additionally, there are minor differences in how the closing of educational gaps is measured compared to last year.

As mandated by state law, the responsibility of calculating the 100-point scale and assigning letter grades has traditionally fallen on the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. However, whether the office will continue to fulfill this role remains uncertain. The office’s executive director, Joy Hawkins, expressed the need to ensure continuity and comparability with past years of reporting, indicating ongoing efforts to find a suitable solution.