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Most Newton County schools earn average, above average number of stars
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The Georgia Department of Education today released the 2015 School Climate Star Ratings for all schools in the Newton County School System. The ratings survey students’, teachers’ and parents’ perceptions of the school’s climate during the 2014-2015 school year. Included in the final calculations are data from the Georgia Student Health Survey 2.0, Georgia School Personnel Survey, and Georgia Parent Survey, as well as student discipline data and attendance records for students, teachers, staff and administrators.

According to the report, the majority of Newton County’s school scored a three or four rating. Only one school, the Newton County Theme Middle School in Covington, received five stars and only one school, Rocky Plains Elementary School, received a one star ranking.

“Our Newton County teachers and leaders are committed to ensuring that students are taught in environments that are supportive of their needs,” said NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. “Most of our schools received three or four stars and the Newton County Theme School Middle School posted a score of five stars.

“However, I’m still concerned about the reliability of these calculations,” she said.

Fuhrey said there was a discrepancy in the Rocky Plains Elementary School rating. “In 2014, Rocky Plains earned a four star rating,” she said. “However, in 2015, the school only received a one star rating”

Fuhrey said that the Georgia Department of Education attributed the single star rating to low participation in the surveys by students and teachers. The district is gathering electronic evidence to prove to the state that student and teacher participating in the surveys met the state’s requirements.

Determining culture of school

School climate refers to the quality and character of school life — the “culture” of a school. A sustainable, positive school climate fosters youth development and student learning, which are essential elements for academic success, career-skill improvement and overall quality of life. The School Climate Star Rating is one measure that helps assess whether a school is perceived to be moving forward.

School Climate Star Ratings are required by law; they also serve as a companion to the Department of Early Care and Learning’s Quality Rated program, which includes an assessment of the learning environment.

All schools received star ratings of 1 to 5, with five stars representing an excellent school climate, and one star representing a school climate most in need of improvement. School Climate Star Ratings are an informational tool for schools, administrators, and parents; they do not affect the school’s College & Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) score.

A school receiving a 5-star ranking is considered excellent. Four-stars indicates an above average score, while three stars means a school has earned an average score. Schools ranked with two stars are below satisfactory, and one-star schools are ranked unsatisfactory.

Where Newton schools stand

In Newton County, most schools received a four or three star rating.

Schools that received a four star ranking were East Newton Elementary, Mansfield Elementary, Middle Ridge Elementary, Newton County Theme Elementary, Oak Hill Elementary, Clements Elementary, Cousins Middle, Indian Creek Middle, Liberty Middle and Veterans Middle schools.

Three stars were awarded to Fairview, Flint Hill, Heard-Mixon, Live Oak, Porterdale, South Salem and West Newton elementary schools, and Eastside and Newton high schools.

Schools receiving two stars were Livingston Elementary School and Alcovy High School.

“It is important to note that this report, just like our CCRPI [College and Career Ready Performance Index] report, was received more than one school year after the data was collected,” Fuhrey said. “These ratings are based on data from the 2014-2015 school year, and we just received the information.

“For these reports to be meaningful, or even helpful, school districts must receive the information in a timely manner,” she said. “It doesn’t help us and most important, it doesn’t help our students, to receive data two school years later. There has to be a better way.”

Elementary schools receiving scores below 80.6 and middle and high schools receiving scores below 67.7 are awarded one star, while five stars are awarded to elementary schools that receive 95.1 points and middle and high schools that receive 87.6 points.

The DOE reports that research has found schools with positive climates tend to have better test scores and graduation rates while schools with negative climates often indicate a hostile environment and lower academic performances.
The star ranking is one of three tests the state uses as part of a statewide accountability system. The tests are the Career and College Ready Performance Index, the school system’s financial efficiency rating and the school climate, or star rating.