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Clayton schools on list

By Trina Trice

See Page 10 for Clayton County map and listing of schools falling short of standards.

Fountain Elementary School, which has some of the county's at-risk students, has been working hard to bring up the performance of students.

On Wednesday, the school was listed as one that has actually dropped in its performance and its principal said it is a great disappointment.

"As hard as we've worked at Fountain, we were disappointed," said Dr. Tonya Mahone-Williams. "But we see it as an opportunity for growth."

Six of the 31 schools that are Title 1 schools with at-risk kids made the list of schools that need improvement.

None of the schools made the "distinguished" category, according to the information from the Georgia Department of Education. And 15 schools did not show adequate yearly improvement.

Meanwhile, statewide there were improvements in a variety of categories.

Frank Rezek, principal of Swint Elementary School, hasn't seen details of the report, yet is anxiously waiting.

"We're working with students in the areas where they have deficits," he said. "Students come with different maturity levels?they don't learn the same way."

Rezek contends that what he knows of the report isn't accurate because only a "small sampling" is taken of schools.

"In assessment of students in one hour in one day of a 180-day school year, it's not going to give accurate (representation)," he said.

Many of the state's schools failed to make annual yearly progress not because of low performance, but because they did meet the 95 percent participation rate required for state assessments, said Judy Alger, Title 1 consultant for the Georgia Department of Education.

"A school could slip up and not make 95 percent because the group (sampled) is small," Alger said. "If students were out sick and they didn't come back and make up the test?the school didn't meet AYP."

Attendance was also a factor used to determine adequate progress.

"Between 2002-2003 (schools) had to have had a smaller percentage of students missing 15 days or more for school year," Alger said.

Interim Superintendent Dr. William Chavis and deputy Superintendent Bill Horton are not commenting on the list, according to Jerry Jackson, Clayton County Schools spokesperson.

"We are now taking a look at the schools on the list," Jackson said.

The other schools on the list that need improvement are Forest Park and North Clayton middle schools, Haynie, Swint, and Tara elementary schools.

The additional schools that did not meet adequate yearly improvements are Forest Park and North Clayton high schools; Jonesboro, Babb, Kendrick, Morrow, Pointe South, and Riverdale middle schools; and Kilpatrick Elementary School.

The list is a part of the 2003 Title 1 report on Adequate Yearly Progress which is used to determine if schools are on track with No Child Left Behind.

The Title I program targets disadvantaged and at-risk children by giving U.S. Department of Education funds to school systems to be used with the intention of offsetting a child's lack of resources with a wealth of education experiences.

No punishments will be coming to the schools, but the list is used to put the spotlight on those not performing up to standards and to hopefully find ways to fix the problems.

No Child Left Behind, which became law in 2002, requires school systems to have students at 100 percent proficiency by the 2013-2014 school year.

To meet the goal, each state must define Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), a set of performance goals that establishes the minimum levels of improvement, based on student performance on state standardized tests, that schools and the state as a whole must achieve.

Georgia uses the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests as the AYP assessment tool for elementary and middle school, and the Georgia High School Graduation Test for high school.

In 2001, Forest Park and North Clayton high schools earned the "distinguished" designation because both schools met or exceeded state standards for three or more consecutive years.

This year, though, the schools are not meeting standards and will receive public school choice designations in the 2004 report.

There are no consequences for schools not meeting AYP for the first year.

For schools not meeting AYP for more than two years, parents have the option of transferring their child to a higher performing public school in the school system. Priority for transportation cost would be given to the lowest-achieving, low-income students of that school.

In turn, the individual school would have to identify specific areas that need improvement, in conjunction with the school district, to develop a plan to raise student achievement.

A school not meeting AYP for five years or more is up for a restructuring which would include replacing most or all of the staff or having the state take it over.