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Georgia Approved to Use "Differentiated Accountability"

   The state of Georgia has been granted new flexibility that will give more students the opportunity to receive federally-funded tutoring.     U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced today that Georgia is one of six states that will pilot a "differentiated accountability" plan under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).     "This flexibility will allow us to provide federally-funded services to more students in more schools," said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. "This also gives us the opportunity to stop treating all schools the same under NCLB -- a change that is much needed in the law."     "I'm grateful to Secretary Spellings and the U.S. Department of Education for choosing Georgia as one of the pilot states."     Under the state's approved differentiated accountability plan:        School systems will have the option of offering free tutoring to students at first-year "Needs Improvement" (NI) schools. The systems can then offer public school choice to students at second-year "Needs Improvement" schools. Previously, NCLB required public school choice be offered first and systems that still want to offer choice first are allowed to do so under the state’s plan.      Creates "tiers" of consequences for schools in "corrective action" -- those in needs improvement for three or four years -- based on academic achievement.      Labels schools in Needs Improvement for five or more years as "state-directed" schools.      The federal government announced this flexibility on March 18, and Georgia was one of 17 states to apply for it by May 2. Georgia's application asked for this flexibility to be implemented for the 2009-2010 school year. However, in granting Georgia's application, the federal government required the program to begin immediately.     "We realize this is a quick turnaround, but we sought this flexibility at the urging of local school districts and didn't want to turn it down simply because it wasn't offered on our timetable," Superintendent Cox said. "So we accepted the terms of the offer and will begin implementing the plan immediately."     Because of this late change, the state's Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP) report will be released about two weeks later than in the past. The AYP report is expected to be released the week of July 21-25.    PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE AND TUTORING      The flipping of school choice and tutoring is something that is being sought by many state and national groups, including the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Association of State Boards of Education and other groups.     In 2007, Georgia's state Board of Education also signed a statement that called for a reversal of these consequences, among other changes to NCLB.     Since NCLB was enacted in 2002, parents of a student at a Needs Improvement school could request a transfer to a higher-performing school. However, for many of Georgia's students, "public school choice" wasn't an option at all.     In 2007, there were 69 systems that had at least one school that should have offered choice under NCLB. However, in 34 of those systems, choice wasn't offered at all, mostly because there was no other school to which students could be sent.     Even in school systems that can offer choice, it isn’t widely used. In 2007, there were about 145,000 students who attended NI schools and should have been offered choice under NCLB. However, only about 4,500 students actually transferred – about 3 percent.     "It's clear that public school choice under NCLB really isn't an option for most of our students," Superintendent Cox said. "Giving systems the option of offering tutoring first will allow us to serve more students and directly address the issues that are affecting school performance."     In 2007, about 10,500 students took advantage of the free tutoring -- about 13 percent of the students that were eligible. However, tutoring was previously only available to economically-disadvantaged students.    Under the new plan, tutoring can be offered to all academically at-risk students in Title 1 schools, as long as economically-disadvantaged students are given first priority.     "It is our hope that this will dramatically increase the number of students receiving the tutoring services and lead to higher student achievement across the board," Superintendent Cox said. However, the Superintendent noted two important points:         School systems that still want to offer public school choice first can do so under the state's differentiated accountability plan.      This flexibility ONLY applies to schools that will be first-year Needs Improvement schools in 2008-2009 and beyond. This does not apply to any school that was in NI Status at any level for the 2007-2008 school year.       CORRECTIVE ACTION and STATE-DIRECTED SCHOOLS      The state’s approved Differentiated Accountability plan also calls for changes to the way schools in “corrective action” are treated.     Under the plan, schools in years 3 and 4 of Needs Improvement will be ranked by academic achievement in reading/English language arts and math and then broken into three tiers.      TIER 1: TOP 20%:  These schools that either made AYP for one year or were the closest to making AYP and will have to select a corrective action from a list that includes the appointment of an outside expert to advise the school, extending the school year or school day or restructuring the internal organization of the school.      TIER 2: MIDDLE 60% : These schools will also choose a corrective action that includes the consequences from Tier 1, as well as other actions including replacement of school staff.      TIER 3: LOWEST 20%:  Based on a data-driven analysis, the state will choose a corrective action for these schools from the same list as Tier 2 schools.     Schools in Needs Improvement status for five or more years will be placed into a new category called “state-directed.” These schools will enter into an improvement contract with the Georgia Department of Education and a state director will be assigned to the school full-time to assist with implementation.   MORE INFORMATION  -  Georgia's entire Differentiated Accountability Proposal  -  A side-by-side comparison of the changes in Georgia's accountability plan  -  Overview of Georgia's Differentiated Accountability Plan  (PDF) -  Learn more about Supplemental Educational Services (tutoring)  -  Learn more about public school choice  -  Frequ ently asked questions about AYP and NCLB