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City Schools of Decatur looking to add honors English, math courses in 6-10th grades next year

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City Schools of Decatur looking to add honors English, math courses in 6-10th grades next year

The Decatur School Board met for its monthly meeting on Nov. 14, 2023, to discuss adding honors courses, establishing a grading policy and adding two new staff positions. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The City Schools of Decatur School Board, at its Nov. 14 work session, discussed adding English language arts and math honors courses in sixth through 10th grades beginning next school year.

According to the presentation attached to the work session agenda, CSD has a need for increased opportunities for more rigorous coursework and must change service models to continue offering gifted services in core content areas.

CSD offers AP and IB courses in 10-12th grades, but does not offer honors courses.

“While we’re hearing this request from our stakeholders, we also received updated guidance from the DOE on approved gifted service models and rules we must follow to receive funding for gifted services,” Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Burton said. “If we do not make adjustments to our current course offerings, we will lose an estimated $1.7 million per year.”

The school district will continue the existing gifted cluster model in science and social studies, which would mean CSD would then offer a gifted service model in all four-course areas.

Four levels of coursework are already offered in 11th and 12th grades with standard coursework, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate standard level, and IB high-level courses.

For math, CSD is looking to add honors courses in sixth and seventh grade. In eighth grade, students could take the standard level course or an algebra enhanced course.

In high school, honors algebra concepts and connections and honors geometry would be offered.

CSD will also offer honors English language arts in sixth through 10th grade.

In other business:

– During the work session, the school board held the first reading of a new grading policy. The board will hold the second reading and vote at its regular meeting in December.

CSD has not had a formal grading policy. The draft policy outlines a four-point grading scale for kindergarten through fifth grade, and a 100-point scale for grades 6-12.

The policy also provides definitions for when to assign each grade for the four-point scale. The 100-point scale for middle and high school focuses on the mastery of state standards.

Students in the International Baccalaureate program would also be evaluated based on the IB middle years program and the IB diploma program. Additionally, the policy also outlines high school grade point averages and that bonus points will only be awarded for advanced coursework.

– During the work session, the school board discussed a couple new staff positions, including a multi-tiered system of support director and a comptroller. The district is planning to post those job openings this week.

“The finance department has analyzed current job responsibilities and job positions and has determined the need for an executive finance position to ensure the equitable distribution of job responsibilities,” Chief Financial Officer Lonita Broome said.

The finance department is currently made up of the CFO, a part-time administrative assistant, one coordinator and four specialists.

“A Comptroller is an executive level position that is instrumental in the planning, organizing, and directing of financial responsibilities,” Broome said.

The comptroller will be responsible for supervising payroll and accounting personnel, managing cash collections and capital assets, overseeing the annual audit, and providing financial reports.

The MTSS director would redesign the multi-tiered system of support process, implement procedures that align with the Georgia Department of Education guidance, create monitoring systems and evaluate the process for potential improvements.

During Dr. Whitaker’s first 90 days, she and staff discovered that the MTSS framework needs to be redesigned. They also found inconsistencies between schools in how much time was being dedicated for interventions.

“In some schools, students were receiving 20 minutes of tier three interventions twice per week, when in fact, state guidelines call for tier three students to receive at least 30 minutes of intervention services four to five times per week,” Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Burton said. “In some schools, we have students receiving no interventions.”

The district has MTSS school leads and coordinators. They need clarity in understanding the MTSS program, and teachers also need training on implementing interventions.

“These findings show we need an MTSS director,” Burton said. “Our MTSS director will lead professional development and database decision-making. Our MTSS director will provide training and evidence based interventions and progress monitoring data analysis.”

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