By Curt Yeomans and Johnny Jackson
Seven Clayton County and Henry County schools have been added to the state's 2010 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rolls, according to the Georgia Department of Education's final report on school performance.
The state's updated report shows that the status of five Clayton County schools, and two Henry County schools -- originally listed as not making AYP for 2010 -- has changed following a final review of their data. Those schools are now listed as having made AYP.
The Clayton County schools are Forest Park, Lovejoy and Mt. Zion high schools, and Kemp and Northcutt elementary schools. The Henry County schools are Eagle's Landing and Ola middle schools.
"I am a very happy principal," said Mt. Zion Principal Angel McCrary, whose school had been placed on "State-Directed" status this past summer when it did not meet the achievement mark in the state's preliminary report. "Our students performed very well, which enabled us to make AYP this year ... We had not made AYP in at least four years, so we are definitely celebrating right now."
A school's AYP status is notable because it is a measure of how well the school is meeting the mandates of the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act. The state of Georgia has a "Needs Improvement" list for schools that continually fail to make AYP.
For each year that a school does not make AYP, it goes up a level on that list, and the punishment can range from having to offer school choice, to the complete re-structuring of the school's administration and staff.
Each year, the Georgia Department of Education releases two AYP reports. There is a preliminary report, which is released during the summer. A second, final report, is released once data is re-evaluated, and any Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, and Georgia High School Graduation Test re-testing results are taken into account.
In Mt. Zion's case, McCrary said the school's AYP status was changed once the state re-evaluated the school's data. She said the school will stay at Needs Improvement level 4, which means it will continue to have a school improvement specialist from the state at the school. Mt. Zion has to make AYP for one more year, to come off of the "Needs Improvement" list, she said.
She said the school's administrators decided to make themselves "students of AYP" last year, and then got students to take ownership of the graduation test, through activities such as a student-organized AYP pep rally, and a "Design your own AYP T-Shirt" contest.
She said she first told the school's seniors, whose Georgia High School Graduation Test scores were used to determine if the school met academic requirements for AYP, after she found out about the school's status on Friday.
"They were just so happy," she said. "We had students crying, hugging each other, high-fiving each other. It had taken on such a personal meaning for them. Nobody wants their school to be considered a failure."
In all, 50 out of 61 schools in Clayton County ended up making AYP this year, according to the state's final AYP report. In a written statement, Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley said he found the results "gratifying," and attributed them to more rigor in the classroom.
"We are pleased that these schools have achieved this distinction and have joined our growing list of schools earning the status of making Adequate Yearly Progress," he said. "Achieving this status is a tribute to each school's students and staff members for their hard work and dedication to academic success."
In Henry County, the state's data indicates that 34 out of 51 schools made AYP this year.
"We're pleased that these additional schools have been identified as making AYP," said Tony Pickett, Henry's assistant to the Office of the Superintendent. "All of our schools are working very hard to prepare students for end-of-year assessments. The principals are working together by school cluster to develop AYP plans to help ensure that schools in each cluster make AYP.
"They are also presenting those plans to the board of education."
Lisa Gugino, assistant principal of testing at Ola Middle, said her school made AYP, "due to the fact that we have specific SMART [Strategic and Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, Relevant, and Rigorous, and Time-bound] goals aimed at students and their weaknesses, to improve student achievement."
Eagle's Landing Middle School Principal Jim Davis said his school's parental and teacher involvement, and enrichment classes for students, played a large part in the school's success. He added, however, that it all came down to one thing -- teamwork.
"This is our seventh straight year making AYP," Davis said. "It's a combination of efforts on everybody's part. It always is."