By Curt Yeomans
Staff members from Church Street and Morrow elementary schools were on a figurative cloud nine at the Clayton County Board of Education meeting on Monday night.
Twenty-seven Clayton schools were recognized at the meeting for being Georgia Department of Education Title I Distinguished Schools. The honor means that the schools have achieved Adequate Yearly Progress for at least three years.
But, of the 27 schools recognized by the school board, Church Street and Morrow stand alone as the only Clayton County schools to have accomplished the feat for nine consecutive years, according District Spokesman Charles White.
They are among a small group of schools state-wide that have made AYP every year since the federal No Child Left Behind Act was enacted in 2001. Adequate Yearly Progress is the measure used by the Georgia Department of Education to determine whether a school is meeting the mandates outlined in that federal law.
To make AYP, a school must meet state-established mandates for the percentage of students meeting, or exceeding, standards on state, standardized tests, such as the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) or the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT), as well as the number of students who take those tests.
There is also a so-called "second indicator," which is the attendance rates for elementary and middle schools, and graduation rates for high schools.
Title I schools are those in which a majority of students qualify for the federal government's free-and reduced-price lunch program.
"These are our very first distinguished schools in Clayton County," said White. "They were the first schools we recognized in Clayton County Public Schools as part of this program. They've earned the highest honors in the state, and they are part of that exalted group of schools."
Only 81 Title I schools in the state were recognized by the Georgia Department of Education this year for making AYP for at least nine years, according to Department of Education Spokesman Matt Cardoza.
Morrow Elementary School Principal Tim Foster said his school's ability to consistently make AYP is due primarily to consistency and cooperation among the staff. "More than anything, the base of my staff has been here for a number of years, and that consistency has played a large part in why we keep making AYP every year," he said.
"The teachers take a personal interest in their students. They've seen them grow from kindergarten to the fifth-grade, and each grade level talks to the next about what kind of students they're getting, and which students may have deficiencies in reading and deficiencies in math."
Church Street Assistant Principal Paulette DeVaughn and Math Coach Lekisha Anderson said the school has a popular "800 Club," in which students who score at least 800 points on any portion of the CRCTs get to participate in an activity day as a reward. "All of the kids want to be part of that group," DeVaughn said.
Anderson also said the school offers tutorial programs, such as one started this past fall in math, to help students improve their academic performances.
School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson (not related to Lekisha Anderson) said the board is proud of Church Street and Morrow for their consistency, and challenged other schools in the county to meet the mark of making AYP for at least nine years. "It just goes to show you Clayton County has excellent schools," she said.
In addition to Church Street and Morrow, the other schools earning Title I Distinguished School honors include (third year making AYP) Kilpatrick Elementary School; Smith Elementary School; Unidos Dual Language Charter School; Babb Middle School; Rex Mill Middle School; (fourth year making AYP) Kemp Elementary School; Lewis Academy of Excellence; (fifth year making AYP) Harper Elementary School; Marshall Elementary School; (sixth year making AYP) Fountain Elementary School; Jackson Elementary School; King Elementary School; (seventh year making AYP) Anderson Elementary School; Arnold Elementary School; Callaway Elementary School; Edmonds Elementary School; Hendrix Drive Elementary School; Kemp Primary School; Lake City Elementary School; McGarrah Elementary School; Mt. Zion Elementary School; Northcutt Elementary School; Oliver Elementary School; Pointe South Elementary School, and River's Edge Elementary School.