The Barrow Board of Education took part in a three-hour training session Oct. 23 that focused on how to improve four weak areas in the school system. Officials are seeking to improve the system’s graduation rate, its math curriculum, its special education programs and the number of students who seek post-high school education.
Matt Thompson, who is the district’s testing and data specialist, led the session by detailing the state’s current graduation formula. Recent changes to the formula dramatically lowered the rate in Barrow and the vast majority of school systems throughout the state. The 2011 graduation rate for Barrow was 64.2 percent, compared with 76.7 percent under the previous formula. Efforts to improve the graduation rate include intervention; creative programming for students who are forced to drop-out or take longer to graduate; and continued work to account for the unknown students who may leave the school district, yet continue be factored into the graduation rate.
Barrow schools are continuing with efforts to close the achievement gaps between special needs students and regular education students. Thompson said that statistics show students with behavioral needs, including attention-deficit disorders, struggle the most. They represent the majority all special needs students, he said.
The district’s special education director Andrea Pender said faculty are working to improve the special education outcome through early intervention, pushing expectations higher, and co-teaching both traditional and special education students in the same classrooms.
Thompson presented statistics showing that white students in the system — who make up the majority of students in the district — are underperforming more than other students in math, a trouble subject for Barrow schools.
Changing the curriculum so that math is taught again by subject in the high school — algebra and geometry, for instance — will help faculty and parents do better for students, said Lee Bane, the district’s math chairman. Raising expectations and helping teachers network teaching strategies through online technology are other keys to improvement, Bane said.
POST HIGH SCHOOL
While his statistics show that Barrow students are competitive in their Hope scholarship eligibility, they fall short in other areas compared with the state and school districts with a similar makeup.
For example, fewer Barrow students enroll in college, with the numbering declining over the past three years. Fifty-six percent enrolled in 2011 compared with 61 percent in 2009.
Strategic career planning, career counseling and guidance, with students as young as fifth-grade is considered a way to improve this.