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Two local schools among state's top performers

Henry County's Luella Middle and Union Grove High schools were among 345 Georgia public schools recognized for academic improvement and achievement during the 2009-10 school year.

The Governor's Office of Student Achievement and the Georgia Department of Education announced Wednesday the schools were acknowledged under Georgia's Single Statewide Accountability System (SSAS), which awards schools based on their performance on state curriculum exams and Adequate Yearly Progress status.

"Congratulations to the principals, teachers, parents, and students at these schools," said Kathleen Mathers, the executive director of the Office of Student Achievement. "This is one way to say ‘great job' to these school communities that have stayed focused and committed to helping children learn and achieve at high levels."

The schools are awarded in two different categories, and on four levels of SSAS Awards, including Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze.

Luella Middle received the Bronze Award for Greatest Gains, for being among schools that demonstrated the greatest improvement in scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT). Union Grove High received the Bronze Award for being among schools recognized for Highest Performance on the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT).

"LMS is excited and honored to be named a Bronze Award winner the Governor's SSAS," said Luella Principal Aaryn Schmuhl.

Bronze Award middle schools are those in which at least 20 percent of the student body exceeds standards on the CRCT, according to the Governor's Office of Student Achievement.

To receive the award, the school could not be on the state's "Needs Improvement" list, and had to give a collective performance in the 95th percentile of greatest gains on the CRCT.

"It is a testament to the hard work of our dynamic teachers, here at LMS, that we have moved from a [Needs Improvement] school only three years ago, to this recognition," Schmuhl said. "We will continue to do the dedicated work it takes to push our students to excel and to be the best they can be.

"I think it is also important to give credit to our students for having pride in our school and doing the best they can in everything we ask of them, and to thank our parents for providing strong supportive home environments," he continued. "It is a community effort, and we are honored to be recognized."

Union Grove received the Bronze Award for Highest Performance on the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT) having at least 20 percent of its student body exceeding state standards on the GHSGT, with at least 95 percent meeting or surpassing the academic standards. Also, in order to receive the state recognition, the school cannot be on the state's Needs Improvement list.

"We are very excited about being named a 2010 Single Statewide Accountability System award-winning school," said Union Grove Principal Tom Smith.

"We have made the list of Schools Highest Performance for Students Meeting and Exceeding Standards for the third year in a row the Governor's Office of Student Achievement," noted Smith. "Our faculty, staff, and students work very hard to maintain high levels of expectations on the state tests. This is an accomplishment that validates the hard work that takes place at Union Grove High School on a daily basis."

The awards were announced as part of the release of the state's Annual K-12 Public Schools Report Card, according to state education officials.

"The students and staff at these schools are to be commended for this significant achievement," said State School Superintendent Brad Bryant in a prepared statement. "These high levels of achievement and improvement don't happen unless everyone is focused on the goal of providing a world-class education to every student."