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Clayton Schools' AYP forecast proves true

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Georgia Department of Education has confirmed a prediction Clayton County Public Schools officials made last month: A record number of middle schools made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year, while most of the county's high schools struggled.

Ten of Clayton County's 14 middle schools made progress, which is more in a single year than the district has ever had, according to the Department of Education's AYP report, which was released Tuesday on the department's web site. However, only one of Clayton County's eight high schools - Morrow High School - made that same mark.

Five of the county's 32 elementary schools were unsuccessful in their bids to make AYP this year.

Overall, 44 schools, or 73.3 percent of Clayton County's 60 schools, made AYP this year, according to the Department of Education's report.

"We're definitely happy about the performance we've seen in the elementary and middle schools, and we expect the same out of the high schools in the future," Clayton County School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said.

Individual schools, and school systems, are required to make AYP under the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Schools that continually fail to meet AYP standards face mounting sanctions from the Georgia Department of Education. Sanctions range from having to offer school choice or tutoring, to mandatory restructuring of the school.

A school's AYP status is determined by the Department of Education, based on data from three areas: standardized test participation, how well students do on state-mandated tests - including the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) and the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) - and the "second indicator." For elementary and middle schools, the second indicator is student attendance. For high schools, it is the individual school's graduation rate.

The state keeps a "Needs Improvement" list to hold schools that consistently fail to make AYP accountable for their performance. After two consecutive years of not meeting AYP, a school is placed on the list, according to the Department of Education's web site. The school progresses to higher levels of "Needs Improvement" status for every year it fails to make AYP, unless progress is made in problem areas. Continually poor performance leads to stronger sanctions. A school must make AYP for two consecutive years to get off the list.

The Clayton County schools that did not make AYP this year were Fountain, Haynie, Lake Ridge, Suder and Swint elementary schools; Babb, Lovejoy, Pointe South and Riverdale middle schools; and Forest Park, Jonesboro, Lovejoy, Mount Zion, Mundy's Mill, North Clayton and Riverdale high schools.

When contacted for a comment Tuesday, Clayton County Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley said he needed an hour to review how the school system did. However, he could not be reached again later for comment.

More middle schools make AYP

The performance by middle school students has been noteworthy.

Only two years ago, half of Clayton's 14 middle schools made AYP. This year, 10 made that mark. Additionally, the only two schools in the county that came off of the state Department of Education's "Needs Improvement" list were Forest Park Middle School and M.D. Roberts Middle School.

Among the middle schools that did not make AYP, Riverdale Middle School is at "Needs Improvement Level 2," which means the school must offer tutoring to its students and school choice to students' families.

Lovejoy and Pointe South middle schools are at "Needs Improvement Level 4," which means they have to implement school corrective action plans, and offer school choice and tutoring.

Babb Middle School came off the "Needs Improvement" list last year, and remains off the list.

High schools continue to struggle

At all of the seven high schools that did not make AYP, student performance on the Georgia High School Graduation Test was an issue, with "Black," "Hispanic," "Students with Disabilities," and "English-Language Learners" sub-groups not meeting state-mandated performance levels.

Among the high schools not making AYP this year, two of them, Lovejoy and Forest Park high schools, are not yet on the state's "Needs Improvement" list.

Three more schools, Mundy's Mill, North Clayton and Riverdale high schools, are at "Needs Improvement Level 1," which means they must offer students and their families either school choice, or tutoring.

Jonesboro High School is at "Needs Improvement Level 2," which means it must offer both school choice and tutoring, according to the state Department of Education.

Mount Zion High School is at "Needs Improvement Level 4," which means it must implement its school corrective action plan, and offer both school choice and tutoring.

In addition to not meeting state-mandated academic standards for AYP, Mount Zion and North Clayton did not meet the second indicator because their graduation rates were too low. Mount Zion had a graduation rate of 73 percent (an increase of 6.1 percentage points), while North Clayton's rate was 74.5 percent (a decrease of 2.8 percentage points). The state requires a high school's graduation rate be at least 75 percent to meet the second indicator.

"We are going to provide the resources and supplies that teachers in our high schools need to make sure their students are succeeding in the classroom," School Board Chief Anderson said.

Clayton County is not alone in its AYP high school struggles. Statewide, only 47 percent of high schools made AYP this year.

"We know there is a lot of hard work going on in our high schools," State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox said in a written statement. "We need to continue to study the data and work together to make sure our high schools are not only meeting AYP goals, but are preparing students for the 21st Century."

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On the net:

Georgia Department of Education: http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/