Changes at Georgia Cyber Academy Bring Positive Results

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Monday, October 28th, 2019

Georgia Cyber Academy, Georgia’s largest public school serving approximately 9,500 students in a computer based virtual learning environment, received positive news today from the Georgia Department of Education regarding school performance.  The results show tremendous improvement in student academic growth across every grade level. The students achieved these unprecedented results after the board changed school management and implemented significant Board policies prior to the 2018-2019 school year.

A key metric for GCA is the “Closing the Gaps” score, as a significant portion of new students come to the school several grade levels behind in expected proficiency.  For Middle School, GCA scored an 85.3 for the Closing Gaps Metric of the CCRPI Scorecard, significantly above the state average of 50. This indicates the school is demonstrating the ability to coach students up to grade level mastery.  Also, the elementary grades scored 85.9, 12.1 points over the state average and the secondary grades scored an 87.1, 7.1 points over the state average in Closing Gaps for the 2018-2019 school year. Under former management and practices, the school scored 40.6 for Elementary grades, 40.9 for Middle School, and 47.1 for High School during the 2017-2018 school year.

For the first time in the school’s 12-year history, the school also exceeded the state overall average CCRPI score for its Middle School, scoring a 74.7, thereby indicating that the changed management, new accountability practices, and board policies are having a significant impact on student academic performance. The school saw improvement in overall CCRPI scores from Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, increasing 10.9, 8.3, and 5.8 points on a 100-point scale, respectively.

“We are excited about the early results shown in the first year of our comprehensive turnaround” said School Superintendent Angela Lassetter.  “While more work remains to be done, these results along with our own internal assessments being made this year, indicate the school is on a new path that ensures every child enrolled at GCA will have the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential”.

As part of the school’s reorganization, Lassetter was named Head of School and her position now reports directly to the school’s local board. This was one of several significant changes undertaken by GCA’s board as it has moved the school away from a nationally centralized management model to one where the school hires and manages its own employees directly. This structure helps ensure that board policies are enacted completely and that adjustments based on real time assessments are implemented immediately.

“These initial results validate the sometimes difficult but very necessary changes at Georgia Cyber Academy” Board Chairman Kenneth Tennyson Asher said. “We appreciate the commitment and hard work of our faculty, staff, parents and students as we strive for excellence from every student, every day.”

In addition to staffing changes, GCA made modifications to curriculum and instruction practices during the 2018-2019 school year that affected the results.  These include lowering the school’s enrollment, decreasing class sizes, supplementing curriculum with additional instructional and diagnostic tools, and removing significant administrative tasks from classroom teachers by augmenting support staff.

Thanks to the amount of real-time data available in a virtual learning environment, GCA was able to track gains in student performance in real time, documenting increasing improvement as the year progressed.  Evidence of these improvements led the board to make additional changes for this current school year, including choosing new curriculum options from various providers that are more cost effective and closer aligned to Georgia’s performance standards than GCA’s prior curriculum.