In 2017, Douglas County high schools, collectively, earned 1.6 “Challenge Points” on the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) for the performance of “disadvantaged” populations: Economically Disadvantaged (ED), English Language Learners (ELL), and Students with Disabilities (SWD). This compares with 0.5 points for the state as a whole. Can we conclude from this result that these vulnerable populations are learning more and are better prepared for life after high school?

To answer this question, we need to first look at how the points are calculated. The calculation essentially is the product of the proportion of all students in one of these three categories (which determines the maximum possible points in this area) and the number of “performance targets” met by these subgroups. There are nine types of targets for each of the three groups: eight are EOC exam performance and one is graduation rate, resulting in 27 targets total.

The proportion of these three subgroups in Douglas County schools is very close to that in the entire state (60.7% compared to 62%). Hence, that variable in the equation has a minimal effect. Douglas County students, though, met 7 of 27 targets, whereas the State as a whole only met two:

Douglas County Georgia

ED – Graduation Rate ED – 9th Grade Literature EOC

ED – 9th Grade Literature EOC ED – American Literature EOC

ED – American Literature EOC

ED – Economics EOC

ELL – Graduation Rate

SWD – Graduation Rate

SWD – Geometry EOC

This difference of five targets met results in the positive differential of 1.1 points compared to the State. Yet notice that three of these five targets are graduation rates. Douglas County is graduating these subgroups at a higher rate than the State. The fact that there are two more EOC targets met may suggest to you that these students are learning more, and thus the higher graduation rate is legitimate, but what does the actual test score data reveal?

Table 1 shows the weighted EOC exam proficiency rates for these subgroups. In this formula, students who score at the “Proficient Learner” level are weighted 1.0, while those who score “Developing Learner” are weighted 0.5. Thus, a score of a 50 could mean that 50% were Proficient, or that 100% were Developing, or some combination thereof.

Table 1 – EOC Performance and Graduation Rates of Disadvantaged Subgroups (bold means subgroup targets were met; green means outperformed the State, though targets were not met.

Douglas County students had lower exam scores in 18 of 24 areas, yet the graduation rates were 7 to 11 points higher for each group. We can conclude from these results that * more students graduated while achieving less*, which further confirms that the district’s higher graduation rates are NOT the result of higher achievement but of lower academic standards. Furthermore, since Proficiency on these exams is the level indicating that students are ready for college-level work, it is also the case the fewer of these students are prepared for college.

Perhaps this is why fewer Douglas County graduates, as a whole, are enrolling in college in recent years. For example, according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, 64% of 2015 high school graduates statewide enrolled in college (including technical schools); whereas Douglas Co. graduates enrolled at a 58% rate.

It is reasonable to conclude then that these subgroup graduation rates are inflated relative to actual achievement. Together they result in 0.7 more Challenge Points. Combined with the fact that the TOTAL graduation rate, which includes all students and is thus likewise made higher by these subgroups’ rates, results in at least 1 more Achievement Point, then altogether questionably high graduation rates are the cause of at least 1.7 additional CCRPI points.

This small amount is not trivial. It accounts for over half the positive differential with state high school CCRPI, and it allows, potentially, for high schools to avoid accountability under the district’s “Strategic Waiver” contract with the GA DoE. This consequence is especially galling considering the fact that the waivers include regulations affecting students who are ELL and SWD. For example, the school system can now enlarge class sizes for these groups to whatever size they wish and **still receive additional funding for them**, whereas prior to the “waivers” this funding was contingent on staying below certain class size maximums.

This situation reeks of injustice. If our high schools, and thus the administrators who run them, look better from higher graduation rates resulting in higher CCRPIs, and these higher scores come at the expense of properly educating the most vulnerable students in the school system, then people in power are benefiting at the expense of the poor and marginalized. Is exploitation taking place in our high schools?

This is the final post in a series on 2017 CCRPI Results. See also: