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22 Clayton schools listed among Georgia's best

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

State Superintendent Kathy Cox recently announced more than 700 Georgia schools, including 22 in Clayton County, are distinguished institutions because they "don't accept excuses."

Cox announced the Georgia Department of Education's list of 777 Distinguished Title I schools two days ago. One-third of Clayton's schools are on the list.

Schools earn distinguished honors for making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for at least three years. As a result, the number of years a school is "distinguished" is always two years more than the number of years it has met AYP.

"There are high standards for students and high expectations for teachers," said Cox. "These schools are focused and determined -- and they are getting results."

Title I schools are those schools which have a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students in its population. As a result, the school receives federal Title I funds to help provide a quality education. Seventy-four percent of Clayton County's student population during the 2007-08 school year were listed as "economically disadvantaged."

Sharon Brown, executive director of federal programs for Clayton County schools, said all of the district's 60 schools are Title I institutions. She also said Title I status is not a negative thing for the district's schools because it has not proven to be a barrier to student success. In fact, she expects the district will have a higher number of distinguished schools next year.

Several Title I schools in the county need to make AYP for one more year to make the "distinguished" list. At a time when the county's school system is in the spotlight for its accreditation woes, Brown said "this distinguished school recognition reflects the great instruction that is going on in our schools."

A school which is distinguished for the first time receives a certificate commemorating the designation. This year, Kemp Elementary School and Lewis Academy of Excellence are in that category.

If a school is distinguished for two, or more, consecutive years, it receives a monetary award in addition to the certificate. The monetary awards range from $842 to $12,156. The size of the award depends on the percentage of students qualifying as "economically disadvantaged," and the number of years the school has received "distinguished honors."

The money for the awards comes from federal funding. The state handed out a total of $2.1 million to all of the schools, with Clayton earning $70,121 for its "distinguished schools" status.

Morrow Elementary School is one Clayton County's leading schools in terms of being distinguished, and it received the largest monetary award of $10,130.

This is the eighth year Morrow Elementary, which the state calls a high level poverty school, has made AYP. Economically disadvantaged pupils made up 82 percent of the school's 533 student population last year.

Several Clayton schools got $8,104 because of their poverty schools but have consistently achieved "distinguished" status. They include Edmonds Elementary School (four years); Hendrix Drive Elementary School (four years); Northcutt Elementary School (four years); Fountain Elementary School (three years); Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School (three years), and Harper Elementary School (three years).

Church Street Elementary School has received distinguished honors for six years, and has received $1,263 for being a low poverty level school.

The 12 remaining schools got $842 a piece: Anderson Elementary School (four years); Arnold Elementary School (four years); Callaway Elementary School (four years); E.W. Oliver Elementary School (four years); Kemp Primary School (four years); Lake City Elementary School (four years); Mt. Zion Elementary School (four years); Pointe South Elementary School (four years); River's Edge Elementary School (four years); William M. McGarrah Elementary School (four years); James Jackson Elementary School (three years), and Thurgood Marshall Elementary School (two years).