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Appendix A: District Profiles
Forsyth County Schools
|Number of Schools||23|
To say that this Georgia district has been growing is putting it mildly. In 1991, Forsyth County Schools' enrollment stood at 8,000. Today, a dozen years later, the district serves over 22,000 in 23 schools, and its student population is expected to grow to 34,000 within the next five years. District leaders have been aggressive in developing the infrastructure necessary to respond to Forsyth's dramatic growth. One important strategy was a decision in 1996 to join the Center for Leadership and School Reform's Standard Bearer Network, under the direction of noted reformer Philip Schlechty. Through its participation in this 10-district pilot effort, Forsyth has had access to collaboration and resources otherwise more difficult to find. With the help of this network, the district has been increasing its use of data-driven decision-making and reliance on research to guide strategic planning and practice.
Research about how best to support students who have fallen behind academically has informed Forsyth's implementation of extended learning opportunities (ELOs). Its Early Intervention Program (EIP) provides supplemental instruction during the school day to K-5 students (irrespective of Title I status) who have below standard on the state's competency test. Its Extended-Day Program provides after-school instruction for students performing below grade level on state reading and mathematics assessments, with priority given to EIP and Title I students. All involved-district leaders and staff, teachers, and parents-view these programs as essential to the success of participating students. It was this broad recognition of the value of additional instruction and time on task that lead Forsyth to see SES as a benefit. And because district leaders and staff saw SES as a benefit, they set a positive tone for implementation.
Forsyth initially had two schools whose improvement status triggered SES. Early on, Forsyth realized that its success in getting eligible students at these schools connected to SES was contingent upon parent trust. Although the district sent letters notifying eligible parents about SES, it also recognized that, for many parents, their most important connections to the education system are their relationships at the school level, with classroom teachers and principals. Thus, Forsyth has encouraged and supported school-level outreach. The district also reaches out to new parents through its recently established Transition Center, which provides assistance on such things as student registration, placement testing, and, not least, signing up for SES. Because many new district families are Hispanic, the district sought out as Center coordinator a particular bilingual teacher-on-assignment who has extensive credibility in the community. Parents can thus receive information from someone who speaks their native language and who is well known and well respected. This targeted outreach has proved effective: 99 percent of SES students in 2002-03 were classified as "English as a Second Language" students.
The district was approached by four service providers but two dropped out early on: one determined that the distict's per-child allocation was insufficient to cover its costs and the other, a community-based organization, concluded that it did not have adequate internal resources to carry out the services. The two that remained were different franchises of the same parent company. When that parent company declared that Forsyth County was in the service territory of only one franchisee, the district was left with that one provider. Although district staff have consistently made themselves available to organizations considering becoming SES providers in Forsyth County, to date no other providers have signed on. Although the district had no say in the provider selection, it saw the potential of partnering with its one provider to assist the district's neediest students, and it looked for ways to collaborate to gain even greater pay-off. One strategy for leveraging the SES was to facilitate the ongoing exchange of data between a student's tutor and classroom teacher.
Forsyth's SES tutors use lesson plans available on the Georgia Department of Education Web site to ensure instruction is aligned both to state standards and to classroom learning. Additionally, instructors supplement their lessons by assisting students with homework assigned by classroom teachers. In this way, the program targets students' distinct abilities and needs. The program also uses an in-depth assessment to measure starting points and monitor progress. The results of this diagnostic, along with biweekly progress reports, are provided to parents and teachers.
Forsyth has instituted a continuous feedback loop to support the efforts of both classroom teacher and tutor. Teachers are encouraged to work with tutors and parents to develop the required student learning plans and to review the results of the provider's pre- and post-test. They are also expected to supply tutors with current assessment data: In 2003, the district launched TestTrax, which enables parents, teachers, and school leaders to access standardized and standards-based test data in digestible reports to better understand how students are performing. Classroom teachers provide that data to SES tutors.