By David Miller,
with information from the AP and the Georgia Association of Educators
Savannah, GA (WALB) - The Associated Press reported that Savannah-Chatham County's Beach High School is firing its entire staff to avoid further sanctions from the state. The same number of positions will be available but only half of the teachers can be rehired under federal education law.
Beach High School has been classified by the state as needing improvement for the past five years, linked to the school's annual progress measures. It's had a state administrator helping address the school's poor performance for the last two years.
The move makes the high school eligible for up to $6 million in federal grants for school improvement.
But the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) says it's not as simple as that.
GAE President Jeff Hubbard says the GAE and the Chatham Association of Educators (CAE) have been in contact with members of the Savannah-Chatham County School Board and other local leadership to offer their expertise and assistance.
They are helping in determining if there is another option that could be used to help Beach High School make Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals as stipulated under the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act.
"We are recommending that their leadership consider ESEA's Transformation Model rather than the Turnaround Model," said Hubbard. The Transformation Model differs from the Turnaround Model in that it calls for identifying and rewarding staff that have increased student achievement and provides support for those who are not showing significant student outcomes.
The GAE also wants to dispel the misconception that the Beach staff was fired. Under the Turnaround Model, the staff is removed and up to fifty percent can re-apply for their jobs and the other fifty percent may be reassigned.
"Our local members are deeply concerned about the academic success of the students at Beach High School," said Hubbard. "It's a fact, however, that while the school is still falling short of AYP goals, Beach's students have been making improvement with the help of dedicated educators."
Statistics from the Savannah-Chatham Superintendent's Office that show:
• Compared to last year, Beach High School's End Of Course Test pass rates have risen by 17 percentage points in 9th Grade Literature and Composition; 9 points in Biology; 5 points in Physical Science; 4 points in U.S History; and 2 points in American Literature and Composition. These gains are greater than or equal to those made by the state.
• Over the past three years, Beach High School students have increased their average Mathematics Scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test by 6 points. By comparison, the state average has fallen by 4 points.
• Over the past three years, the percentage of Beach High School students taking one or more Advanced Placement exams at some point during their high school career has risen from 9% to 23%, an increase of 14 percentage points.
• Over the past three years, the percentage of students dropping out of Beach High School has fallen from 6.1% to 3.5%, placing Beach's dropout rate below the state average in 2009
"We don't want it to appear that Beach's students and staff are being punished and labeled as losers when, in actuality, they are moving in the right direction. Instead, we should build upon and support the improvement that has been taking place. While we are disheartened by the Board's decision to use the ESEA's Turnaround Model, we recognize their reasoning is that this will restart the clock and provide them a fresh start," said Hubbard.
Hubbard says his organization is hopeful, that as the Obama Administration and Congress move forward with ESEA re-authorization next month, they will promote a growth model to measure student success and teacher effectiveness, instead of the current one- size-fits-all approach of No Child Left Behind.
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