What is the Georgia Department of Education trying to hide from parents?

Children across Georgia have wrapped up the first half of their school year, and they know what comes next: report cards.

Everyone knows how those work: Some assignments were worth more than others; final exams usually count more than tests, which weigh heavier than quizzes. Part of the teacher’s job is to consider it all accordingly and award a final grade for each subject that reflects the various factors and priorities.

If only Georgia’s education leaders thought that was important, too.

Oh, they haven’t called for getting rid of students’ report cards – at least, not yet. They’re simply shielding the adults in schools from the same sort of clarity.

When the Georgia Department of Education released the 2023 data by school for the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) a few weeks ago, it omitted the “single score” that has been a feature of this reporting for more than a decade. Instead, parents must grapple with four CCRPI components (five for high schools) for the schools their children attend.

What matters most? Content mastery? Progress? Readiness? The Georgia DOE won’t tell you. Sadly, the Biden administration approved the department’s request to waive a federal requirement to calculate the single score.

These bureaucrats hide behind words like “oversimplified” and “complicated” to explain their opacity. But they don’t believe their own rhetoric when it comes to distilling students’ work each academic period to a single grade. Only the adults get that kind of pass.

It shows you where their sympathies – and priorities – lie.

Evaluating school performance didn’t become “complicated” all of a sudden. It wasn’t “overly simplistic” when first mandated two decades ago. What changed is the pandemic, school closures and learning loss.

The extent of learning loss is what these administrators don’t want parents to understand in simple fashion.

Arguably the most important component of CCRPI is content mastery, because it illustrates whether students know what they were supposed to learn. On the 2019 CCRPI, the last one completed before the pandemic, 59% of Georgia’s public schools scored at least a 60 out of 100 on the content mastery component – good enough for a passing grade on most student report cards. Not exactly a high bar to clear.

In 2022, that number was an abysmal 45.4%. The new data show it rose ever so slightly in 2023, to 46.7%.

That works out to about 400 additional schools that flunked on student achievement, compared to 2019.

The decline would show up significantly in those schools’ single scores. That alone explains why the bureaucrats have worked so hard not to produce the scores.

This is what passes for “accountability” in Georgia education these days. It’s not as if there were real consequences for a low score in the first place; the most likely result was that a failing school would end up getting more taxpayer money. Now, even clear transparency is too much for these feckless souls. They are weaponizing transparency: spewing too many numbers, without context or prioritization, for parents to sort out.

They’d rather work hard to ensure parents – and taxpayers, and voters – don’t know the extent of the learning loss, than do the work of remedying it. They complain year in and year out about red tape and restrictions that inhibit educators from simply educating, but the only regulation they’ve asked to waive is the one that makes clear whether any education is happening in our classrooms.

When the General Assembly returns next month, it has a number of options. It could put in state law that a single score must be produced, rather than relying on the now-waived federal requirement. It could give parents the choice to take their children’s education dollars elsewhere, which is the highest form of accountability. At the very least, it could call these bureaucrats on the carpet and demand to know what’s really happening with student achievement.

Anything but letting this travesty go unanswered.

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