By Greg Gelpi
On the heels of a school board that dealt with a yearlong system-wide probation, the Clayton County Board of Education has turned its focus to academic achievement.
After a series of retreats, the school board developed its top five goals for the coming years, goals for the school system and goals which will guide Superintendent Barbara Pulliam. The board also established targets for each of those goals. Topping the list of goals is boosting student achievement, particularly in the area of state standardized tests.
The goals as set forth by the school board will have a "great deal of weight" when it comes time for the board to evaluate the superintendent in July, Clayton County Board of Education Chairwoman Ericka Davis said.
"She knows that these are the expectations for the coming six months and year," Davis said of the goals, which are meant to give the superintendent "direction."
She likened the goals to a football playbook, saying that it's up to Pulliam to go and make the play, executing within the framework of the goals.
A year ago, the school system was "driven by probation" as the system "stagnated" and directed efforts on lifting the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools probation which weighed on the system, Davis said.
"We were afraid to do anything wrong because we didn't want children hurt by anything we did," Davis said.
Although the school system remains on "warned" status, probation was lifted, and the school board is turning its attention to academic achievement and other system-wide changes, she said.
As a school system, Clayton County did not make adequate yearly progress in 2004. About 72 percent or 38 of 53 schools did make adequate yearly progress.
In light of this, the school board established the system's No. 1 goal: " To improve academic achievement in Clayton County Public Schools as reported in state and standardized test results."
"We worked really hard to come up with the five goals," board member David Ashe said. "I think they're on target."
Among the "targets" of the goal, the school board wants to "improve third grade (Criterion Reference Competency Test) reading and math scores, implement strategies for fifth and eighth grade students to meet and exceed state CRCT standards in reading and math and increase student performance on the Georgia High School Graduation Test."
In addition, the school board wants to improve ninth grade promotion rates and middle school adequate yearly progress performance.
Ashe said that the nine-member board is "unanimous in requiring" Pulliam to meet the stated goals, adding that the board will meet again later to develop more specifics for the goals based on information from the school system.
"When it says improve there will be a definite percentage there," he said.
For instance, test scores may have to be raised 3 percent to 4 percent from last year, Ashe said.
Along with the goals, Davis said to expect a series of policy changes as the school board addresses system-wide issues and concerns to "ensure that we're performing at our optimum ability."
Among those policy considerations will be one that directs the school system on how to handle the leadership of a school that continually finds itself on the "needs improvement" list, she said.
Other goals set forth by the school board were as follows: 2) "To institute a safe and orderly environment which supports academic success in Clayton County Public Schools," 3) "to employ and retain highly qualified and effective staff in Clayton County Public Schools," 4) "to increase parental involvement, community collaboration and business partnership with Clayton County Public Schools" and 5) "to institute support services that deliver on time, on budget and with quality those services which support student academic success in Clayton County Public Schools."