Athens City Schools system releases statement on state’s Education Report Card

Here’s the statement released by Athens City Schools:

ATHENS, Alabama, January 10, 2018 — The Alabama Legislature passed a law in 2012 requiring each school district in Alabama to be assigned a single letter grade that was a reflection of its performance.  Since this time, the Alabama Department of Education has been trying to determine a fair and equitable way to grade all school districts around the state by the same measure. The report card that has just been released is a preliminary model that will continue to be adjusted to meet the needs of all concerned parties.

The grades for Athens City Schools are as follows:

  • Overall Score – B
  • Athens High School – B
  • Athens Middle School – C
  • Athens Intermediate School – C
  • Athens Renaissance School – C
  • Athens Elementary School – A
  • Brookhill Elementary – B
  • Julian Newman Elementary – B
  • SPARK Academy at Cowart – C

We encourage those who review the grades assigned to Athens City Schools to take the time to understand what the grades represent and, more importantly, do not represent. One of the primary concerns many have with this report card is that it relies heavily on the results from one test, the ACT Aspire, which is administered to students in grades 3-8 and grade 10. For seven of our schools, this test counted as 90 percent of the school’s grade. ACT Aspire represents 50 percent of Athens High School’s grade.

In addition, the ACT Aspire was discontinued by the State Board of Education in 2017 due to concerns that this test has a limited degree of reliability and does not align with Alabama State Standards. The U.S. Department of Education also declared that the alignment of the ACT Aspire and the Alabama State Standards could not be validated. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the test does offer useful data on an individual student basis, especially in examining readiness for college. We are using the ACT Aspire test results as one marker in evaluating teaching and learning, but at the same time are cognizant to the fact that this test offers only one viewpoint and has limited applicability.

Another area of concern that many have with the report card is the way in which attendance impacts the grade received. Chronic absenteeism, which is defined as the percentage of students who miss 15 or more days of school, counts as 10 percent of the grade. On the surface, this may seem reasonable; however, this rate includes excused absences as well. Therefore, students that miss school for reasons such as field trips, college visits, and health reasons are considered chronically absent. This has a negative impact on the school’s grade.

We welcome accountability and transparency and are hopeful that as this prototype report card is more fully developed it will include other indicators of student success that are not captured by a single test. For example, participation in career and technical education classes, dual enrollment classes, enrollment in Advanced Placement classes, involvement in extracurricular activities, band, and athletics all enhance a student’s development and success. It seems logical that indicators such as these, combined with a standardized assessment, would provide a clearer picture of student success.

Athens City Schools has exceptional teachers who work to provide students with the skills they need to be successful at the next grade level and upon graduation. We have outstanding students who work hard, are respectful, and who exhibit the ethical and moral values we hold dear in Athens. When they leave us, they are prepared to compete with any student in the country. They are equipped.

We are very proud of all of our schools. We celebrate their work. We will continue to serve our students and this community with pride and value the tradition of excellence expected of our school system.

Sincerely,
Trey Holladay
William ‘Trey Holladay
Superintendent of Education