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Two Clayton schools get 'state-directed' status

The Georgia Department of Education is stepping in at two Clayton County schools that have gone several years without being able to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on a consistent basis, according to the department's latest AYP reports.

The reports, which were posted on the DOE's web site on Monday, show that Lovejoy Middle School, and Mt. Zion High School, are now on "State-Directed" status for failing to make AYP this year. In all, 16 out of 61 Clayton County schools, failed to make AYP this year, but Lovejoy Middle and Mt. Zion High have missed the mark often enough to be put on "State-Directed" status.

"It basically means they have a full-time state director in the school [funded by the state] helping them focus on student achievement," said Department of Education Spokesman Matt Cardoza. "They get out of that status if they make AYP two years in a row," he added, in a written statement.

The designation means the state will be taking a more direct role in the schools, through observers, who will offer advice to administrators on how to improve their schools, Cardoza continued.

AYP is important to schools, because it is the mark used to determine whether a school is meeting the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which was passed into law in 2001.

Schools that fail to make AYP for two consecutive years are placed on the state's "Needs Improvement" list. For every year a school fails to make AYP after that, it moves up a level on the list, and the consequences continually get more severe, ranging from offering school choice, to school restructuring, to being placed on an improvement contract.

Mt. Zion High School and Lovejoy Middle School are now listed at "Level 5" on the state's "Needs Improvement" list, which means they have gone at least six years without consistently making AYP in back-to-back years.

According to the state's report for Mt. Zion High School, the school failed to meet state standards in two out three criteria areas: graduation rate, and academic performance. The school had a 78.4 percent graduation rate in 2010. While that is higher than the school's 2009 graduation rate of 74.8 percent, it was still below the 80 percent threshold mandated by the Georgia Department of Education.

Juniors at the school also struggled on the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT). According to the AYP report, only 66.2 percent of students met, or exceeded, state standards on the math section of the test, which is up from 59.7 percent in 2009. The state requires a school to have at least 74.9 percent of its students meet, or exceed, state standards on the GHSGT's math section.

The state's AYP report for Lovejoy Middle School shows the school failed to meet AYP this year because of academic performance, and attendance for students with disabilities. The school only had 65.2 percent of its students meeting, or exceeding, state standards on the math section of the Criterion-Reference Competency Test (CRCT). The state requires a 67.6 percent pass rate.

Last year, 71.8 percent of Lovejoy students met, or exceeded, standards on the CRCT's math section.

On the English/Language Arts portion of the CRCT, the school's students with disabilities struggled to meet the state's 73.3 percent "Meets + Exceeds" rate requirement. Only 54.5 percent of students with disabilities met, or exceeded, state standards, which is up from the 49.2 percent in 2009.

Overall, 88.2 percent of all Lovejoy students met, or exceeded, the standards this year, compared to 86.4 percent a year ago.

To meet the attendance criteria, elementary and middle schools cannot have more than 15 percent of their students missing 15 days, or more, of school. At Lovejoy Middle School, 19.2 percent of students with disabilities missed 15 days, or more, which is a sharp increase from 13.7 percent for this demographic subgroup, in 2009.

In a written statement, Sharon Brown, Clayton County Public Schools' director of federal programs, responded to an inquiry about how the district will deal with the "State-Directed" status, by saying, "We are presently awaiting further contact with state officials regarding this issue."

In addition to having two schools placed on "State-Directed" status, this year's AYP reports contained even more bad news for Clayton County Public Schools. Eight of the county's nine high schools failed to make AYP. State officials said there were not yet enough students enrolled in the ninth high school, Charles R. Drew High School, to determine AYP status.

The high schools alone made up half of the list of 16 Clayton County schools that did not make AYP during the 2009-2010 school year. In past years, there had usually been at least one, or sometimes two, high schools that made AYP in any given year.

"We are presently reviewing individual school data," said Brown, in her written statement. "Based on this review, the Office of Federal Programs will work in close collaboration with the district's Chief Academic Officer, and the district's K-12 Math Coordinator, to develop and implement a series of action-steps specifically addressing the issue of mathematics teaching and learning in our high schools."

State-wide, however, only 33 percent of high schools made AYP this year, which is a 14 percentage-point decrease from last year, the DOE announced.

There were also five elementary schools, and three middle schools, in Clayton County that did not make AYP this year. The elementary schools are: Hawthorne, Kemp, Lake Ridge, Northcutt and Roberta T. Smith.

In addition to Lovejoy, the other middle schools that did not make AYP are: Jonesboro Middle School and North Clayton Middle School.

On the flip side, however, the school system did get some good news from the reports. Four Clayton County schools (Kendrick, Mundy's Mill, and Sequoyah middle schools, and E.J. Swint Elementary School) came off the state's "Needs Improvement" list. Schools come off the list when they make AYP for two consecutive years.

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On the Net:

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