By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Public Schools officials are planning to quickly raise student achievement -- by as much as 69 percentage points in some content areas -- so all pupils will be meeting, or exceeding, state education standards by the spring of 2013, according to the district's new, five-year strategic plan and balanced scorecard.
The 35-page plan shows that the district's goals, all of which relate to student performance, include making sure it communicates its vision and purpose to stakeholders; provides "high quality services" that promote student success on time and within budget; and recruits and retains qualified staff, including teachers and school-level administrators.
The first and primary goal listed in the plan, however, is ensuring students do well on state, national and international assessment tests by providing them with services such as data-driven instruction; a plan that promotes the SAT and ACT, along with Advanced Placement tests and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program; a math intervention plan; a study-skills curriculum, and a reconfigured delivery of content-matter remediation.
"By 2014, according to No Child Left Behind, we should be at 100 percent [the percentage of students meeting and exceeding state standards], but we want all of our students to get there anyway," said Luvenia Jackson, who is overseeing the development of the plan as the special assistant to School System Superintendent Edmond Heatley. "You're always striving to reach 100 percent. We don't want to wait until 2014 to get there, though."
The document is the district's plan to meet the mission and vision for the system approved by the Clayton County Board of Education last fall, which state that students in the county will be prepared to compete on a global stage, according to Jackson.
She said department heads are now working on reconfiguring remediation for each content area, and developing plans -- such as the one to promote the SAT and ACT -- that are listed as steps toward improving student achievement.
"It's all to support student achievement, because that is our mission as a school system," Jackson said.
There are six strategic goals outlined in the plan, including:
* "To increase academic achievement for all students in Clayton County Public Schools, as evidenced by state, national, and international assessment results."
* "To provide and maintain a safe, orderly, and secure learning environment."
* "To create an environment that promotes active engagement, accountability, and collaboration of all stakeholders to maximize student achievement."
* "To effectively communicate the system's vision and purpose, and allow stakeholder involvement in an effort to build understanding and support."
* "To provide high quality support services delivered on time, and within budget, to promote student academic success in the Clayton County Public Schools."
* "To recruit, and retain, highly qualified and effective staff."
How the district does in reaching its goals will be measured by how students perform on state-level standardized tests, such as the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) and the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT), and on the nation-wide Advanced Placement exams, and the SAT and ACT.
Jackson said the international assessment will be measured by how students perform in the International Baccalaureate program.
In some cases, there is not as much distance to go to meet the district's 100-percent-by-2013 goal. Such is the case in eighth-graders taking the reading section of the CRCT, on which 91 percent of those who took the test last spring met or exceeded state standards. On the mathematics section of the GHSGT, 90 percent of high school juniors met or exceeded state standards last spring.
In most areas on these tests, however, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards fell somewhere between 60 percent and 80 percent.
In some areas, though, there is farther to go to achieve the goal. For example, among students with disabilities, 31 percent of third-grade students, and 32 percent of fifth-graders, met or exceeded state standards last spring in mathematics.
According to action steps laid out in the strategic plan, district officials plan to meet the challenge of improving achievement for all students, not only through things like a math intervention plan, reworking remediation, and encouraging more students to take advantage of AP classes, the IB program, or taking the SAT and ACT, but also by focusing on what the data says about student success.
That means monitoring benchmark assessments, conducting a weekly analysis of data to ensure systemic implementation of instruction, and providing supportive intervention when necessary.
From time to time, that data may also re-shape the performance measures the district uses to evaluate how well it's doing. "As we get more information, we may have to make some changes," Jackson said. "The goals won't change, but the performance measures may change, and the action steps may change."
Security-related efforts listed in the plan include conducting annual site-safety audits, and an emergency preparedness plan review, at each school system facility; developing a school resource officer (SRO) and security guard assessment tool and training plan; having all SROs undergo training to teach the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program; improving peer mediation programs, and creating system-wide discipline plans for each school level.
Plans to improve stakeholder engagement include conducting an annual survey of parent needs; coordinating Title I parent training with school system divisions which offer parent training, including Exceptional Students, Teaching and Learning, Counseling and Professional Learning; increasing participation by stakeholders in the development of school district programs; soliciting support from business and community partners for co-curricular and extracurricular activities, and partnering with higher education partners to provide post-graduate information to students.
Plans for providing quality services include aligning the school system's strategic improvement plan process to standards set by AdvancEd, the parent organization of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS); minimizing printing costs, and increasing oversight for contracts, bidding and the consolidation of purchases.
Plans to recruit and retain highly qualified staff include updating job descriptions; increasing collaboration with colleges and universities; providing a training program that enhances professional development; aligning employee evaluations to state and national standards; and implementing an employee attendance policy.
District employees were working to post the strategic plan on the school system's web site, and plan to have it up no later than this morning, according to Jacqueline Evans, a school system spokesperson.