Coweta schools choose their destiny


The Georgia Board of Education has approved the Coweta County School System’s application to become an “IE2” school system.

The state board’s approval at its June 11 meeting paves the way for a formal contract between the state and the Coweta County School Board, said school system spokesman Dean Jackson.

“Following local Board approval of the contract, the Coweta County School System will operate as an Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2) school system beginning July 1 through the 2021-22 school year.”

Jackson said the contract would preserve Coweta’s current waivers from specific state education codes (the O.C.G.A. Title 20 law), rules, guidelines and policies, and would expand on that flexibility, in return for increased accountability for school and system performance. IE2 (pronounced ‘I-E-Squared’) is also known as ‘Strategic Waiver’ school system status.

Coweta County is one of the earliest counties to secure approval of its application to become an IE2 district, which fulfills a state mandate that all Georgia school system must choose one of three accountability options by June 30 of this year, Jackson said. School systems that do not meet the mandate face possible loss of flexibility through currently-held waivers from state educational rules.

At its June 11 meeting, the State Board of Education approved IE2 applications submitted by Atkinson, Bacon, Carroll, Coweta, Jefferson, Montgomery, Paulding, Thomas, and Forsyth County school systems. The Cobb, Forsyth, Gwinnett and Rabun County school systems already operate as IE2 systems.

Superintendent Steve Barker said that state approval of the IE2 application followed several years of work, research and stakeholder feedback.

“Achieving IE2 will maximize our flexibility and allow for further innovation as our schools seek to provide advanced opportunities for our students,” he said.

School system Director of Public Policy Mark Whitlock has led Coweta’s efforts to research state flexibility and accountability options since 2011.

“We were on the front end of a very new process, put in place by the state board to consider these applications,” said Whitlock. “It’s gone faster than we might have thought, considering the large number of school systems considering flexibility options and submitting applications at this time.”

Winning approval of the application and moving to IE2 status “means that we will preserve the school and system flexibility that we already have, and we will have greater flexibility going forward,” said Whitlock.

“Our system has done a good job at developing innovations in education that have expanded student opportunity and school system effectiveness,” he said. “But we still face some regulations that have prevented us from taking next steps that we and our stakeholders want to take. This means that we can continue to innovate as a system.”

Coweta’s Board of Education is reviewing the contract returned by the state, and will consider approval in the coming weeks. If approved, the Coweta County School System’s IE2/Strategic Waiver contract would extend from July 1 through June 30, 2022, to allow for seven years of flexibility, the establishment of benchmarks for accountability, and the review of performance results.

Accountability measures, based on improvement under Georgia’s College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI), would begin on July 1, 2016. School year 2015-16 would serve as a ‘baseline’ year for accumulating performance data. Annual improvement goals monitored for five years through school year 2020-21. The contract extends through 2021-22 to allow for review of the last year of performance data, said Jackson.