For several months, schools across the state of Georgia have been anxiously awaiting the release of CCRPI ratings – the state’s tool for measuring school performance. That day has finally come. For perpetually low performing schools, the release of this data can have implications often unseen to the casual observer. The results can mean the difference between state intervention, thus triggering a series of mandatory interventions – or to the contrary, they can release a school from the scurrilous stigmatization often associated with low academic performance.
This is a pressure for improvement that Banneker High School has responded well to, and as a practical matter, has inspired our school community to pursue higher rates of achievement. For a school that once endured a 3-year stretch of graduation rates nearly 30% points below the state average, the call for a targeted reform strategy was courageously trumpeted by former Fulton County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Robert Avossa. That initiative resulted in the the advent of the Achievement Zone, a descriptor applied to the 7 elementary and 2 middle schools that feed into Banneker. Recognizing that the anatomy of failure – especially for high schools, is not always the result of the inadequacy of their own work, a blend of common expectations was introduced to all Achievement Zone schools with hopes of producing improved student outcomes.
In three short years, Banneker has moved swiftly ahead of the proverbial 5-year transformation curve. Graduation rates have improved by nearly 10%, Milestones exam performance has seen double-digit gains in several content areas, student discipline is down by 50%, - and other, often overlooked indicators of school turnaround like teacher retention, attendance, and fiscal responsibility are all the best that Banneker has seen in the last decade. But most importantly, Banneker High School has so dramatically improved its CCRPI ratings, that it is no longer designated as a failing school under current metrics.
Banneker’s current 62.4 CCRPI rating represents a 5.5 pt. increase from the previous year, and a 17.6 pt. increase over the past 5 years. What is most important about this rating, though, is that it pushes the school over a score of 60 - either side of which represents failing status, or not. This distinction is incredibly important for a school that has an unacceptably long history of poor academic performance.
There Are No Shortcuts
Staff members at Banneker would probably tell you that we are far from where we want to be. After all, Banneker still ranks among the lowest performing traditional high schools in one of the state’s highest performing districts. While there has never been an articulated goal of “getting off the failing schools list”, we remain primarily focused on improving our practice as adults - focusing on the highest, most critical lever of school transformation: improving the quality of instructional delivery and creating a culture of high expectations for everyone in the building. The work that we have done to date and our annual plans for school improvement highlight our intentions, our goals, and our long-term aspirations – but most of all, they represent what we believe is possible for our students to achieve.
We have much more work to do, but today, we pause to celebrate a historic milestone which reminds us all that there are no shortcuts – no silver bullets in the work of school turnaround.
By the numbers:
A visual representation of Banneker’s remarkable story of dramatic change: