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Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 11:51am

'Alert' Schools Released

The Georgia Department of Education released the names of schools Thursday that need to improve achievement rates. The so-called "alert school" list replaces the Annual Yearly Progress issued under the No Child Left Behind law.

Georgia is one of ten states that received a waiver from the controversial federal education law.

To get the waiver, education officials agreed to identify schools with specific performance issues, such as low success rates for disabled students.

High schools appearing on the list have below-average graduation rates. For middle and elementary schools, criterion reference test scores are the determining

Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza says the new system identifies problems, rather than problem schools.

“It’s important to know that things overall at a school may be going okay," he said in a telephone interview. "The point of alert schools is to call attention to a very specific area. It’s not in any way labeling the whole school as a failing school."

He added, "That's the way it was under No Child Left Behind. If a school was on 'Needs Improvement' status, it was always labeled a failing school. But in reality, they also might have had a small issue but the way No Child Left Behind worked, there was no way to differentiate."

The list includes 29 schools in 19 districts, including schools in Muscogee, Hall and Richmond Counties.

Lanier Charter Career Academy in Hall County is one of the schools with low graduation rates.

Hall County Superintendent William Schofield says some of its students are single moms while others have had trouble with the law.

He says they struggle to graduate on time, but he says that doesn’t mean the school is failing. He says the new system is working because it doesn’t use a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Anything that moves us away from the era of No Child Left Behind – which is just one snapshot and then labels entire schools as ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘pass,’ ‘fail’ – is a move in the right direction,” he said.

Schofield thinks that not all students benefit from the traditional high school model.

"We've got to begin to ask ourselves, why are we still in this "factory model, liberal-arts based, everyone-takes-the-same-courses and that's-the-only-path-to-success" [approach]. I think that's Pollyanna-ish. I think it's outdated and our district doesn't work that way," he said.

He said districts need to "celebrate" and cultivate students who want to be thoracic surgeons as well as the student "who wants to be an electrician or who might want to cut your hair or become an auto mechanic."