Leaders with Forsyth County Schools said at the Board of Education’s most recent work session that they are delaying some high school changes originally announced a year ago until after the district’s new five-year strategic plan is set in place.
Director of Secondary Education Heather Gordy, working with the High School Improvement Committee, said one major change being delayed is the plan to remove students’ class rank from their high school transcript.
District leaders announced the change last year, planning to remove the class rankings from a freshman cohort’s transcripts beginning with the 2022-23 school year, which begins in August.
Since the announcement, BOE Chairman Wes McCall said they have received feedback from the community, “and none of them said they wanted to remove the class ranking from the transcripts.”
Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden said the feedback over the past year “has been interesting” considering the decision was made directly on the behalf of students.
“It was not generated by staff,” Bearden said. “It was students in part of our advisory committee saying this is creating a really unhealthy situation in our schools. People are looking at that all of the time, it causes this ultra-competitive [environment], and then kids are taking those additional courses to try to bump that up.
“And our students were saying, we think it would be healthier if it was removed,” he continued.
Bearden said the feedback they have received asking that the class rank not be removed has been from “the adults in our community.”
“So that’s why we put it kind of on the backburner for now,” he said.
Gordy said that the main reason for the delay, however, is the district’s continued work on its 2022-27 strategic plan.
Depending on the final, overarching district goals, she said the High School Improvement Committee might need to go back “to make sure that we are in line with those items [before] …. moving forward with any type of change with the high schools.”
According to the district’s strategic planning timeline released in September, the plan will be presented to the board for final approval in May.
“We feel that, at this juncture, we can’t make the best decisions moving forward until we have that information,” Gordy said.
Gordy explained that even if the district removed students’ class ranking from their transcripts, they would still be able to find out their class ranking through their counselors and other resources, especially since the information is required for many college and scholarship applications.
BOE Vice Chairwoman Kristin Morrissey said she does not think the change would have a major impact on students.
“Masking it isn’t going to change that drive,” Morrissey said. “They’ll still take the [extra] classes, so it’s kind of artificial.”
Other board members suggested that the committee look at other possible ways to help relieve students’ stress around class ranking.
District 5’s Lindsey Adams said the system in which class ranking is determined could be looked at while Tom Cleveland, who represents District 3, suggested opening up more summer classes to students so they can either catch up or get ahead without adding to their schedule during the regular school year.
Bearden pointed out that some courses, such as fitness, are already available to students over the summer.
Aside from the removal of class ranking, Gordy said they also decided to delay implementation of the committee’s original plan to limit the number of quality points students could receive to eight per school year.
But other plans made last year for the high schools have since been implemented.
Gordy said students are now considered full-time with a course load of six classes instead of seven, and they have expanded honor graduate statuses to account for individuals with higher GPAs.
This means that, beginning this May, students finishing high school with a 3.5-3.99 GPA will receive honors, and those finishing with a 4.0 and above will receive high honors.
“Historically, an honor graduate was anyone who had a 3.5 or above as their final GPA for high school,” Gordy said. “And with the type of classes that our students take in Forsyth County, we have many students that have well over a 4.0 as a GPA, and we felt it appropriate to provide different types of honors depending upon where your GPA falls.”
For more information on future high school plans, visit the FCS website at www.forsyth.k12.ga.us.
The BOE also discussed and reviewed results from FCS’ recent accreditation engagement review at their latest work session.
Cognia, an international accrediting agency, conducted the extensive review of the school system and provided a summary of the results to district leaders, which Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Lee Anne Rice presented to the BOE.
The review and accreditation process happens every five years and is usually conducted by a team of former or current educators. This year, Rice said the nine-member team had 237 collective years of experience in education.
They interviewed more than 350 stakeholders as part of the review, looking at the BOE, district leaders, certified staff, classified staff, parents, students and community members.
The team ranked the school system based on a set of criteria in three major areas: leadership, learning and resources. There are 31 total standards where the system was evaluated on.
According to the results, the district exceeded most of the criteria presented, only falling to the “meeting” of standards in two categories.
One area was in assessment and grading where Rice said the district can improve in helping to support students in understanding where they are in their learning and how they can improve. The other area is related to attracting qualified personnel to FCS.
“The data that they used for this was looking at our changing student demographics,” Rice said. “We’ve moved to a minority-majority student population, and [they are] encouraging us to look at our staff population as well so that that’s a little more reflective of our students.”
Rice explained that the district has already made plans in recent years to address those areas for improvement.
Overall, however, the results of the review far exceeded district leaders’ expectations.
Rice said overall scores for these reviews, called the Index of Education Quality, fall between 100 and 400. Cognia’s goal for the accreditation process is for a school system to have an IEQ of at least 275.
FCS’ overall score is 381, far exceeding the average score of 278-283.
“I want to stress to you that Forsyth County’s score was 100 points higher than what an average score is,” Rice said. “And our lead reviewer said …. she hasn’t seen a score this high. She was very complimentary of our district.
“It’s quite an accomplishment and something that I am very proud to be a part of,” she said.