Forest Park Middle leads Clayton schools in improvement

By Curt Yeomans


Jamille Miller-Brown was unsure what she was about to find out on Monday, when a large envelop from the Georgia Department of Education arrived at Forest Park Middle School.

Her curiosity piqued, the school's principal cautiously opened the envelop and found not one, not two, not three, but four pieces of good news. The school's staff was already experiencing a feeling of euphoria from this summer, when it was announced that Forest Park made Adequate Yearly Progress for the first time since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in 2001.

Miller-Brown teemed with excited as she quickly got on the school's intercom system and made a special announcement -- the State Department of Education has bestowed "distinguished school" honors on the school.

"It's the beginning of a long line of accomplishments for this school," said Miller-Brown on Thursday. "To be recognized as one of the top schools in the state -- it's surreal."

Forest Park is one of six Clayton County schools which earned some of the state's inaugural "Distinguished Achievement" awards earlier this week. The awards were developed by State Superintendent Kathy Cox to recognize top performing, or improving schools across the state.

Top 10 lists for achievement and improvement were developed for each section of each grade level's version of the Criterion-Reference Competency Test (CRCT), as well as the End-Of Course Tests (EOCTs) and the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT).

Forest Park took distinguished honors for improvements in sixth-grade English and math, and seventh-grade reading and math.

When Miller-Brown arrived at Forest Park Middle School in May 2007 to become principal, the school was in a rut of sorts. Forest Park was not making AYP, and the Georgia Department of Education placed the school at an advanced "Needs Improvement" level as a result. The new principal pulled parents, teachers and staff members together to develop new goals for the school, and a plan to meet those goals.

At the end of the 2007-08 school year, Miller-Brown's first full year as principal, the school's position had changed dramatically. It had made improvements on its CRCT scores -- so much progress, in fact, the school earned AYP status.

Those improvements also made waves at the state level, however. Forest Park was seventh in the state when it came to improved scores in sixth-grade English. The school was also ninth in the state for improvement in seventh-grade math; and tenth best for improvement in sixth-grade math and seventh-grade reading.

"This means all of our hard work paid off," said Miller-Brown. "We truly came together and surpassed our goals."

In addition to Forest Park, Huie and McGarrah elementary schools; Pointe South Middle School; Lewis Academy of Excellence, and the Unidos Dual Language Charter School received "Distinguished Achievement" awards for improved test scores. The six Clayton schools earned a total of 13 awards from the state.

"It is so important to acknowledge the achievement and progress of our schools," said Cox on Tuesday. "We have schools all over the state that are moving the needle quickly in all areas. This type of improvement doesn't happen in a vacuum; it takes collaboration, dedication and focus."

The "Distinguished Achievement" awards for the Clayton County schools are positive notes for the school system, which is seeking to present more of the positive achievements of its students in the wake of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) decision on Aug. 28, to revoke the district's accreditation.

"This makes a statement that we can compete with the best," said Miller-Brown.


Distinguished Clayton County schools

The Georgia Department of Education announced Top 10 lists of distinguished schools in the areas of achievement and improvement. Separate Top 10 lists exist for each subject areas of the Criterion-Reference Competency Test (CRCT); End-of-Course Test (EOCT), and the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT).

Forest Park Middle School

Improvement - Sixth-Grade English/Language Arts

Improvement - Sixth-Grade Math

Improvement - Seventh-Grade Reading

Improvement - Seventh-Grade Math

Huie Elementary School

Improvement - Second-Grade Reading

Improvement - Second-Grade Math

Lewis Academy of Excellence

Improvement - First-Grade Math

Improvement - Fifth-Grade reading

Improvement - Fifth-Grade Science

McGarrah Elementary School

Improvement - First-Grade Reading

Improvement - Fifth-Grade Science

Pointe South Middle School

Improvement - Seventh-Grade Math

Unidos Dual Language Charter School

Improvement - First-Grade Reading

Source: Georgia Department of Education