Small but steady increases continue for the Polk School District (PSD) this year after the state released their College and Career Ready Performance Index figures for 2017 to start off November.
According to figures released by the state on Nov. 2, PSD's total score this year is a 74.9, up 5.6 points from 2016's overall figure of 69.3.
What does that all mean? In simplest terms, that the state is recognizing that Polk School District is making improvements annually in order to help students succeed while in classrooms locally, and when they graduate and go out into the real world.
It's a good tool to help school districts gauge areas where they need to pay more attention and provide focus on," Superintendent Laurie Atkins said. "It acts as a good guide for us to make good instructional decisions for our kids, and how well the kids are mastering the content. "
The state is looking at four areas when scoring schools: achievement, progress, achievement gap and challenge points.
For instance, if a school is gaining annually in their standardized test scores in a variety of areas, they get better marks on the overall index score than they would had they not made any gains at all. Additionally, they take into account that students in lower grade levels are going to have different sets of priorities in early stages of learning than in the later grades, and factor that and many other elements into play.
Everything from the condition of buildings to the number of students in each classroom go toward the CCRPI's overall score, providing educators a guide to what's working and what isn't in schools around the district and the state as a whole.
So for the 8,053 students who are enrolled in the Polk School District according to the state's CCRPI website, annual increases in test scores, new facilities like the Polk County College and Career Academy at Cedartown and Rockmart High Schools, and much more make a difference when the state is providing an overall score.
Breaking down the figures by grade levels, the overall picture is by the numbers one of improvement.
Elementary schools for instance combined saw an increase of 4.3 points from 2016 to 2017, going from a 68.8 to a 73.1 in a year's time. That's an additional annual jump of 3.1 points from 65.7 in 2015.
The middle and high schools also saw appreciable jumps in that time frame, with Cedartown and Rockmart Middle's combined scores jumping from a 64.4 to a 68 in one year after seeing slightly over a one point drop from the 65.6 the year before. Cedartown and Rockmart High Schools combined scores also reflected increases after dropping from 2015 to 2016. The scores combined were 78.8 in 2015, then dropped to 70.2 in 2016. This year, they're back up to 79.6, accounting for a swing downward of 8.6 points between 2015 and 2016, and then a 9.4 point increase between this year and last.
Atkins said one of the things accounting for the downturns and then swift upswings was changes in strategies and personnel at the schools in the past years.
"Really it's the focus on instructional strategies and what we're using in the classroom," Atkins said. "We decided that after looking at how we were providing instruction, we felt like a more traditional, blended approach served us better."
This year's gains - especially at Cedartown High School, and Eastside, Cherokee and Northside Elementary schools - provide Atkins with plenty of progress to applaud, but also a lot of information about where the school system should go next.
"I think what we plan on doing, is we're going to take our scores, analyze them, improve on areas where we need to focus our efforts and provide additional training to teachers where it is needed," Atkins said.
Atkins said additionally that one thing that will help the 2018 CCRPI scores is the school district is anticipating a lower turnover rate than it has seen in the past years. She said this will help the schools retain vital knowledge and instruction practices that will help make positive movement in scores in the years to come.
"Our teachers are actually the most valuable resource we have to making the improvements necessary to ensure that our children are achieving at the level we all want to see," Atkins said.
2017 CCRPI Scores
Here's a full rundown of the 2017 College and Career Ready Performance Index scores for Polk School District. Find more information by clicking here.
Cedartown High School: 85
Cedartown Middle School: 65.4
Cherokee Elementary School : 79.9
Eastside Elementary School: 80
Northside Elementary School: 74.5
Rockmart High School: 66.3
Rockmart Middle School: 75.6
Van Wert Elementary School: 66.7
Westside Elementary School: 76.7
Young's Grove Elementary School: 75.9