Coweta County Schools
Year off to good start, despite major changes
by Celia Shortt
The Coweta County School System’s 2014-2015 school year is off to a good start, despite facing some major areas of change this year.
The areas of focus for Coweta’s schools outlined by Dr. Steve Barker, school system superintendent, include local initiatives and several major state and federal requirements.
“We have had a great opening,” said Barker of the days since opening Aug. 6. “There’s been a culture of teamwork throughout our whole school system – staff and teachers, parents, students and our whole community, working together to get the school year started off very well.”
Three days after the first day of school, school enrollment was 22,241. Barker expects this number to be fluid and change throughout August, as some students will leave the school system and others will join it.
State and federal requirements facing the school district this year include Student Learning Objectives, Georgia Milestones Assessment, and Teacher and Leader Keys Evaluation System.
The Student Learning Objectives are tests administered to students by teachers in classes, which are not tested on the statewide End of Course Tests – or now the Georgia Milestones Assessment. A more common name for the learning objectives is Student Growth Assessments.
A pretest is offered at the beginning of the school year, and a post test is given at the end of the semester. The objective of both is to measure student progress throughout the course. Some Coweta students took their pretests the week of Aug. 11. Others will take them the week of Aug. 18.
“This is a work in progress,” Barker said to the Coweta County Board of Education at their regular August meeting. “It is taking a lot of time. Our principals and our teachers are working very hard to implement it and accomplish it. It’s a challenge for us. I will keep you posted on it.”
Barker also said these tests “have been a challenge statewide.”
Another major federal requirement being implemented this school year is the Georgia Milestones Assessment. This assessment will replace the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests for third through eighth graders and the End of Course Tests for high schoolers.
This year is the first time these standardized tests will be administered. They are intended to measure student growth.
According to school system officials, some features of the new test include a writing component, open-ended questions, multiple choice questions, and the ability to compare results nationwide. It will also be administered completely online within five years.
When the new test was announced earlier this year, Dr. Peggy Guebert, testing coordinator for the Coweta County School System, said local officials had been anticipating this new test for about a year.
“It’s going to be a much more rigorous test,” said Guebert.
The reason for the new test with harder questions is to better prepare students to college or the workplace.
According to Barker, the school system will work throughout the school year to give teachers the needed resources and tools to prepare the students for the new tests.
“With it being new, we know there will be lower scores, but those will be statewide,” added Guebert.
The final federally required item being implemented this year for Coweta is Teacher and Leader Keys Evaluation System. TKES/LKES is Georgia’s new evaluation system and was piloted by the Coweta school system last year.
According to local officials this new system includes a self-assessment done by the educator, a pre-conference goal setting, pre-evaluation conferences, multiple observations, mid-year conferences, and final conferences. Also included is student performance on the Georgia Milestones Assessment or SLO assessments, survey information, and observations.
“Administrators and teachers are working through the intense schedule of observations and meetings,” said Barker.
He added that state officials have indicated the demands of the new system will likely change after the first year of implementation.
In addition to these federal requirements and focus areas, Coweta’s school system also has three local ones.
The first is the implementation of the 2014-2019 strategic plan. Coweta’s system completed its renewal of the plan after a 14-month process. The implementation is being finalized, which individual improvements for each school aligned.
The second is the development of a charter system contract. In June of 2014, Coweta County School System announced its intention to become a charter school system, due to changes coming from the state with how it allows school waivers.
The committee work on this contract is under way, with the hope of adopting the contract and submitting it to the state this fall. Coweta officials hope it is approved in time for the 2015-2016 school year.
“Focus areas of the proposed contract that align with the school system’s strategic plan may include increasing advanced opportunities for all students, connecting schools and students with real-world college and career applications, closing achievement gaps among students, and processes to address challenges of funding and the economy,” said Barker. “More information about the charter system petition is expected in the coming month.”
The final area is student and employee safety. Coweta County schools were focused on safety and security procedures as the school year started and will continue to conduct drills, refine procedures, and train staff and students throughout the remainder of the school year.
Schools will continue to have School Resource Officers through Newnan Police Department and the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, as well as continuing all ongoing communication with local law enforcement, local emergency management officials, and state agencies.