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School officials: 'Progress expected in most schools'

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Sharon Brown, Clayton County Public Schools' acting chief academic officer for secondary education, told the school board Monday the school system is projecting that more schools will make Adequate Yearly Progress this year than in the past.

Brown said the prediction calls for 33 out of 38 elementary schools, 10 out of 14 middle schools, and one out of eight high schools to make AYP this year. In all, Brown said the district's preliminary data shows 44, or 73.3 percent, of the county's schools will probably meet AYP.

Five years ago, only 65.5 percent of the county's schools made AYP, according to data on the Georgia Department of Education's web site. Last year, 69.5 percent met AYP.

"Forty-four [out of 60] schools, or 73.3 percent of the schools in the district, met AYP [based on school system projections], and that is an improvement," Brown said.

During the board meeting on Monday, Brown called AYP the "cornerstone" of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and an "annual measure of student participation and achievement on statewide assessments and other academic factors."

School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said, while Morrow High School is expected to excel, she wants more high schools to make AYP on a consistent basis. She said she believes the staffs at the other seven high schools are capable of getting their schools to AYP status.

"We knew we were going to have some schools which did not make it this year," Anderson said. "We can't be discouraged by this [only one high school making AYP], because we have good principals at these schools who are capable of getting the job done."

District Spokesman Charles White said the school system's AYP predictions are just that, however, until the Department of Education announces which schools did, in fact, make AYP. Department Spokesman Dana Tofig said this year's AYP schools will be announced later this month, but he could not provide an exact date.

All schools are measured by test participation, academic performance and a 'second indicator.' The academic performance and second indicators differ at the high school vs. elementary-and middle-school levels. For academic performance, elementary and middle schools use scores from the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs), while high schools use the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT). Student attendance is the second indicator for elementary and middle schools, while graduation rates are the indicator for high schools.

Schools that fail to meet AYP for consecutive years face a list of sanctions which grow more severe each year. The schools are placed on a "Needs Improvement" list compiled by the Georgia Department of Education, with sanctions ranging from mandatory development of school improvement plans, to restructuring of a school's staff and faculty.

Morrow is the only Clayton County high school not expected to face difficulty with AYP this year, Brown said. District Spokesman White added on Tuesday that several elementary and middle schools likely will be challenged to meet AYP requirements. They include Fountain, Haynie, Lake Ridge, Suder and Swint elementary schools, and Babb, Lovejoy, Pointe South and Riverdale middle schools.

Academics Chief Brown said several steps have, and will be taken, to get the 16 schools that did not meet AYP this year up to a level where they will make it in the future. Those steps include notifying parents of their school's AYP status and any possible sanctions the school may face early this month, and providing remedial support, such as preparation courses for the CRCT and GHSGT re-tests, in summer school. Brown also said school-level and district-wide improvement planning are currently taking place.

Anderson said the school board has challenged incoming Superintendent Edmond Heatley to continue to get more and more schools in the district to meet AYsP on an annual basis. "One of the board's mandates is to get all of our schools to make AYP," she said.