Under-performing schools face tough choices - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Under-performing schools face tough choices

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  Sweeping changes could be coming to failing schools in Georgia.  $122 million in federal money is available to help those schools, but to qualify they have to take one of four drastic measures.

Their choices are: Fire the entire staff, convert to a charter school, replace the principal, or close entirely.  Some Dougherty County parents say those alternatives might work.

Dougherty County School System has known this offer was coming from the federal government, they've spent the last year looking at data to figure out what they'll do, but won't release that information until next week. 

Dougherty High, Monroe High, Albany High, Dougherty Middle, and Radium Middle all made Georgia's list of under-performing schools.  Now the system is looking at whether they'll take drastic measures in exchange for federal funds.

"We've been studying the data on our schools ever since last years testing numbers came out and so we know the position of our schools," said DCSS Public Information Officer  R. D. Harter.

The proposal is expected to come before the school board as early as next week, but parents with students in some of those schools already have strong opinions on what they want to see done.

"Close it, because I mean the students are not learning what they need to learn, the students are not progressing the way that they should, teachers are not teaching the way that they should,"  said Concerned Parent Selina Lloyd.  

School officials say while closing any one of those schools seems highly unlikely, options like a charter school are a possibility.  Mock Road was made an International Studies Charter School and performance has improved.

"Charter schools have some flexibility that the standard public schools, they come out from under some regulations by setting a means of operation or policy and procedure geared toward turning the school around," Harter  said.

Dougherty County's not the only system affected.  In southwest Georgia 15 school systems have schools that have made the under-performing list, so many will have tough decisions to make.

"Teachers are held more accountable now than they've ever been whether good or bad reasons.  Public education now is under more scrutiny and there's more data with which to make judgements," Harter  said.

One of Dougherty County's Schools on the list might not be eligible for the funds after this year's testing.  If Monroe High School makes AYP this year they'll come off the list.

Every state will receive money from the $3 billion set aside for the bottom five percent of schools. The money is part of the federal stimulus program.

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