By Johnny Jackson
Nearly half of the schools in the Clayton County School System failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) toward requirements set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. As a result, the system did not make AYP.
The Henry County School System, like Clayton, also failed to make AYP this year, even though only nine of the district's 44 schools failed to make adequate yearly progress.
Lower test scores by students in certain subgroup categories contributed to the systems' performance shortfalls.
According to data released Friday by the Georgia Department of Education, black students in Clayton have made strides academically from a year ago, but fell short of the state's math standards on this year's Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT).
Black students, who took the GHSGT in Clayton, passed at a rate of only 65 percent on the math test, compared to 68 percent for Hispanics, 75 percent for sutdents of mixed-race, 80 percent for whites, and 88 percent for Asians.
A 75-percent pass rate is required for student subgroups to make AYP.
Similar poor performance among black students on the GHSGT in math contributed to Henry County's AYP status.
Henry's black students passed the math test at a rate of about 68 percent as a subgroup, compared to 77 percent for Hispanics, 80 percent for mixed-race students, 88 percent for whites, and 92 percent for Asians.
The two school districts also suffered in AYP performance -- in large part -- because of the numbers of students with disabilities who did not meet state standards. According to the AYP Report, not enough students with disabilities in either district met state standards on math and English/language arts assessments.
Officials said this year's AYP Report reflects at least two changes in how students have been assessed academically in Georgia. Students were doing more rigorous work and taking more rigorous tests in 2008, in math particularly. Also, the percentage of students that had to pass state tests in math, reading, and English increased across all grade levels this year.
Statewide, however, more schools made AYP than did not.
"Not only did all the academic measures of Adequate Yearly Progress go up this year, but we continued to raise the rigor of the work our students are doing, especially in mathematics," said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox.
"But even with the higher bar and the increased rigor, a majority of our schools met the mark."
There are 340 schools in Georgia that are in the so-called Needs Improvement (NI) status, which means the schools have missed AYP for two or more consecutive years.
NI schools must offer options to parents - such as tutoring or school choice - and may need to take specific action to improve student performance. The consequence a school faces depends on how long it has been in NI status.
In 2008, 37 of the state's schools that had been on NI status made AYP for the second consecutive year and got out of NI status.
Among those improving schools were Kilpatrick Elementary School and Babb Middle School in Clayton County. Meanwhile, Clayton's Anderson, Callaway, East Clayton, Hawthorne, Jackson, River's Edge, Suder, Tara, and McGarrah elementary schools failed to make AYP for first time in the 5-year period, from the 2003-04 school year to present.
Lee Street, Haynie, Huie, and Kemp elementary schools have missed the AYP mark only one other time since 2003. Riverdale and Swint elementary schools have failed to meet AYP requirements three times since the 2004-05 school year.
Nine of Clayton's middle schools and five of its high schools failed to make AYP. They include Jonesboro, Kendrick, Lovejoy, Morrow, Mundy's Mill, North Clayton, Pointe South, Riverdale, and Sequoyah middle schools, and Jonesboro, Morrow, Mt. Zion, Mundy's Mill, and North Clayton high schools. The school district's Pointe South Middle School is facing restructuring.
"We, along with the rest of the state, anticipated that there would be a lower number of our schools making Adequate Yearly Progress," said Charles White, spokesman for Clayton County Schools. "[And] we are taking the following steps to improve student achievement."
White said the district will have math coaches in each of its elementary schools assisting with classroom instruction. He said the district has plans to implement an enhanced ninth-grade academy for students transitioning from middle to high school. "Additional instructional support is being made available for the rollout of the state's new high school math curriculum," he added.
In Henry, five schools were added to the list of schools meeting AYP standards, including Luella and Stockbridge middle schools, and Dutchtown, Henry County, and Ola high schools.
In all, nine of Henry County's 44 schools did not make adequate yearly progress - New Hope, Oakland, McDonough, and Pate's Creek elementary schools; Dutchtown and Ola middle schools; and Luella, Stockbridge, and Woodland high schools.
Four of the schools will offer additional options for their students. Thirty-five of the district's schools made AYP, including 22 elementary, seven middle, and six high schools.
"According to state guidelines, three non-Title I schools that met AYP requirements will offer school choice, with priority being given to low-achieving students," said Connie Rutherford, spokeswoman for Henry County Schools.
"However, available classroom capacity in another school in Henry County is also a requirement. Therefore, the schools that can be considered to receive transfers are Henry County and Woodland middle schools."
Rutherford added that there are currently no high schools that made AYP and also have available space for school-choice transfers. "When school transfers are approved, transportation to and from the receiving school must be provided by parents or guardians."
Ola Middle School is scheduled to offer in-school supplemental services under the new Statewide Accountability System approved by the Federal Government in June. Students at Ola will be notified of supplemental services once the school year has begun.
Staff writer Curt Yeomans contributed to this article.