SYLACAUGA, Ala. – While school children aim for high grades in classrooms, schools are now being graded, too, under Alabama’s ACT 2012-402 A-F Report Card Law.

Passed by the legislature in 2012, the law required the State Superintendent of Education “to develop a school grading system reflective of school and district performance.” According to the Alabama Accountability System Dashboard, the state’s goal is to provide a layer of accountability when it comes to education in Alabama, with schools and districts graded on state-authorized assessments and other indicators determined to impact learning and success.

Data is now available showing how public schools and school districts are performing compared to others statewide. A-F letter grades and additional key performance indicators are in the works as the second step of a two-part process to be published next December.

According to Sylacauga City Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Freeman, the current statistics and accumulated data are limited because they are strictly based on standardized test scores not reflecting diversities such as poverty and special education in a typical student body. He said the scores do give schools useful information but that many more factors go into proving whether or not a school is successful.

Grades are based on four key performance indicators.

  • Learning gains: based on individual students who demonstrate​ improvement in reading and math from one year to the next using multiple years of data.
  • Student achievement: based on the percentage of proficient students in the areas of reading and math utilizing assessments in tested grades. For high schools, only 10th graders are tested.
  • Graduation rate: based on the percentage of high school students who graduate within four or five years of first entering the ninth grade.
  • Local indicator: based on one indicator tied to student outcomes.​

How do schools in the surrounding area stack up against state and district averages?

Sylacauga City Schools

Sylacauga’s city schools fare well compared to state averages with higher averages in every category. One notable exception: the student achievement section, especially math at Sylacauga High School. The statewide average math student achievement score is 63, while SHS scored 23, and SHS is also seven points below the state average in the reading section of student achievement with a score of 49.

Talladega County Schools

As a whole, Talladega County’s schools did well compared to statewide numbers but were below average in the student achievement category. The county school district posted an impressive graduation rate score of 93, four points higher than the state average.

B.B. Comer Memorial High School posted some of the lowest indicator scores in the Talladega County district, with a 30.3 indicator score for student achievement vs. a statewide average nearly double that score. Comer was also below average with a graduation rate score of 84.

There are positives and negatives when it comes to Childersburg High School, which earned a graduation rate score of 94, well above the state average and one point above the district average. However, in the math section of the student achievement category, CHS scored 23 vs. a state average of 63.

Fayetteville High School was another bright spot for the Talladega County school district. Compared to state and district averages, the school came out ahead with a graduation rate score of 100, while its student achievement score of 59.83 in reading and math is higher than state and district averages.

Although many of the achievement scores for high schools in the state and local area are low, the future could be more promising. Freeman told SylacaugaNews.com that Sylacauga City Schools, and many other schools, are doing more to make sure students are learning what they need to know. “We’re extending the amount of time we’re offering classes and changing how we’re supporting students who are struggling,” said Freeman. “We also did a lot of work in the summer as far as aligning our curriculum with the tests being given.”

Freeman also said schools are working to add more resources such as teacher assistants and reading professionals to kindergarten through third grade classrooms to help students test better and become more proficient in indicator categories.

Freeman said when A-F results are released in Dec. 2017, six more indicators will be taken into account.

  • ACT score
  • Qualifying score on advanced placement exams
  • Military enlistment
  • Proficiency on WorkKeys exam
  • Business or Industrial credentials
  • Dual enrollment

Achievements gaps and attendance will also be considered.

Freeman said agrees with the decision of the state superintendent to hold off on letter grades until there is enough data to determine if a school is being successful.

More information on how Alabama schools are performing is available on the Alabama Accountability System Dashboard.

Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2016, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.