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Chambers County has two schools on ‘failing schools list’

LaFAYETTE — Two schools in the Chambers County School District have appeared on the state’s failing school list for 2019.

The list released Friday by the Alabama State Department of Education listed John P. Powell Middle School and LaFayette High School as “failing schools.” This is John P. Powell’s second consecutive year on the list and LaFayette’s first time since 2017, according to previous records by the state.

According to the state, the “failing schools” are in the bottom six percent of public Alabama schools for the 2018-2019 school years based on the state’s standardized assessment in reading, English and math.

Students in grades three through eight are tested in reading and math with the Scantron Assessment. Students in eleventh grade are tested in English and math with the ACT. Students in grades three through eight, and again in tenth, are also tested in reading and math with the Alabama Alternate Assessment.

Chambers County Superintendent Kelli Hodge said the failing schools list and the school report cards measure different aspects of academic achievement. She said the failing schools list looks at students who are proficient in both reading and math but if one doesn’t perform as proficient in both, that child doesn’t get counted to the positive side of the assessment. The school report cards were also released last week. Additionally, even though both schools received a “D” on the state report card this past year, it wouldn’t matter if the schools received a “B” because if they were in the lowest six percent of the state for the assessments. The bottom six percent of all schools in the state assessment are named to the failing school list.

“The list only looks at one measure — the state assessment,” Hodge said. “I would hate to think I was judged by my performance on one particular measure on one particular day.”

She said the report cards give a more realistic picture of academic achievement.

“It takes into account performance on the state assessment and growth from the year before,” she said. “It also looks at College and Career Readiness, graduation rate and chronic absenteeism.”

Hodge said JP Powell has been making improvements, as can be seen in the academic growth portion of their report card. She said it’s hard for her to assess the high school’s academic growth since the way it has been measured changes each year.

However, she said growth is seen in the graduation rate.

Hodge said based on the state report card, the graduation rate at LaFayette High School has consistently risen from 79 percent in 2017, 85 percent in 2018 and 88 percent in 2019.

Using the federal formula from the state report card only counts students to the graduation rate if they finish high school in four years. Hodge said any student who takes a fifth year and graduates, doesn’t get credit regardless of getting a high school diploma. Hodge said LaFayette’s state graduation rate is 90 percent for the past two years.

According to the state, students in “failing” schools must be notified and given a list of four choices for the 2020-21 school year. They can stay with their current school, transfer to a non-failing school within the same school district, transfer to a neighboring public school district or enroll in private or home school.

In LaFayette, if a student decides to transfer to Valley, which is the only other high school in the district, the Chambers County School District must provide transportation.

“Regardless of the list, we have always offered the ability to transfer from JP Powell and LHS because of the federal court order we have been under for decades,” Hodge said. “We have always provided the transportation for this.”