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Ga. Proposes 'Financial Efficiency' Category for School Scoring

Georgia is moving closer to using a scoring system for schools and districts, but observers shouldn't necessarily assume that the state's been inspired by its neighbor to the south.

Georgia legislation that has passed both the House and Senate would require the state department of education to come up with a scoring system for both individual schools and districts, as outlined in the waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act the state received. The "indicators of quality of learning" identified in the bill would deal with the quality of learning by students, financial efficiency, and the "climate" of both schools and districts as measured by parent surveys and student health and behavioral data.

In the student learning category, schools would be ranked on a 0-100 scale, while on the financial efficiency and school climate measures, a five-star rating scale would be used.

The five-star and 100-point scale system to assess schools represents the third state accountability system for education in about a dozen years. The state's A Plus Education Reform Act, passed in 2000, instituted evaluations for individual schools based on student performance and end-of-course tests, among other initiatives. This was replaced in 2004 by the Single State Accountability System in order to bring the state into compliance with the NCLB law.

But Jeff Gagne, director of education policies at the Southern Regional Education Board, in Atlanta, said even though Florida has a prominent school-grading system in place, Georgia's new scoring system doesn't look very similar to the Sunshine State's law, and instead tries to conform to what is in the state's waiver application—with one exception. Plans to score "financial efficiency" were not part of the state's waiver application, he said.

Language in the Georgia bill states: "Financial efficiency may include an analysis of how federal and state funds spent by local school systems impact student achievement and school improvement, and components used to determine financial efficiency may include actual achievement, resource efficiency, and student participation in standardized testing."

No letter grades are assigned to schools in the five-star and 100-point system, but the financial efficiency measure does represent an additional metric for accountability purposes, said Gagne, who used to work in the Georgia department of education.

"This is one of those big things that really needs a light shined on it. How are local districts spending their money?" he said.

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