By Curt Yeomans
A few hundred Forest Park Middle School students and parents got an unexpected surprise on Wednesday when they answered a knock at their doors. Their teachers were standing in their doorways -- with pencils, paper and rulers in hand.
About 50 teachers and administrators from the school took school buses to local neighborhoods with school supplies and flyers, which let parents know the school has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the first time since 2001, when the federal No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The visits had two purposes. One was to thank the community for supporting the school, and the other was to remind parents that the 2008-09 school year begins today.
"The message we are carrying is 'We want you back in school,'" said Jamille Miller-Brown, who is in her second year as Forest Park Middle School's principal. She then jokingly added, "It also says 'We know where you live if we need to come back.'"
The Georgia Department of Education uses three factors to determine whether a school has made AYP -- Participation on the Criterion-Reference Competency Tests (CRCTs); how the students perform on the CRCTs, and how many student miss 15 or more days of school during the school year.
The school needed at least 95 percent of its students to participate in the CRCT, and surpassed that mark with 99.2 percent participation. In the academic performance area, 59.5 percent of students in all socio-economic subgroups need to pass the math section of the CRCT, and 73.3 percent need to pass the English portion of the test.
Forest Park Middle School had a 65.2 percent pass rate among all students on the math portion, with only the students with disabilities falling below the state's threshold. The state also looks for progress, though, and Forest Park's students with disabilities subgroup still had a nearly 20 percentage point increase in the number of students who met the AYP standards.
The school needed a 73.3 percent passage rate on the English portion of the CRCT. It surpassed that mark with an 86 percent pass rate. All socio-economic subgroups met the AYP standards as well.
The school dramatically cut the percentage of students who missed 15 or more days of school as well. The state requires a school to have less than 15 percent of students missing 15 or more days of school. Forest Park had only 9.2 percent of students fall in that category, which is nearly 10 percentage points less than last year.
"I'm really excited about the school making AYP, because they didn't just squeak by, they MADE it," said Kay Sledge, assistant superintendent of middle schools.
Miller-Brown called the euphoria which emanated from faculty members on Wednesday a "feeling of success." The principal said the faculty at Forest Park Middle School used a strategy of constantly reviewing performance data; meeting the individual needs of students, and "effective instruction."
She also said she wants to use the school's AYP success from the last school year as a spring board for further success in the new year. The school is still at Needs Improvement Stage 4 status, and needs to make AYP this year to get off the Needs Improvement list all together.
"It's going to set the tone for this year, as we strive for further success," Miller-Brown said.
Kandy Collins, whose son, Karesh, and daughter, also named Kandy, attended the school, and are now freshmen at Forest Park High School, said she was pleased to see the middle school make AYP after years of trying to achieve that status.
"My children are very happy about it because they had been worrying a lot about possibly having to attend another school," Collins said. "This is truly a blessing."