State lauds 6 Clayton schools' improvements

Six Clayton County schools were honored the Governor's Office of Student Achievement, and the Georgia Department of Education, on Wednesday, for making some of the state's biggest gains on standardized tests.

The governor's office announced that Fountain, Lee Street, Mt. Zion and Jewell C. Anderson elementary schools, as well as Lovejoy High School, are winners of bronze awards for having some of the greatest gains in the number of students meeting, or exceeding, state standards on the Criterion-Reference competency Tests (CRCTs), and the Georgia High School Graduation Test.

The governor's office also awarded Morrow Elementary School with a platinum award, meaning it was among a small group of Georgia schools that had the greatest improvements on standardized tests, from the 2008-2009 school year, to the 2009-2010 school year.

The schools were recognized under the state's Single Statewide Accountability System, which officials said recognizes schools based on how their students perform on the CRCTs, the graduation test, and other measures of Adequate Yearly Progress, commonly known as AYP status.

In all, state officials recognized 345 schools for improvements, on Wednesday. "The students and staffs at these schools are to be commended for this significant achievement," said State School Superintendent Brad Bryant, in a written 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."

While federal requirements, under the No Child Left Behind Act, mandate that school systems must work toward all of their schools eventually meeting AYP, there has been a particularly strong push in recent years to meet that goal in Clayton County. In 2009 and early 2010, the school system re-wrote its mission statement, vision statement, and its goals, to push schools to make students globally competitive.

One of the things schools have to do to make AYP, is meet state-mandated benchmarks for the number of students meeting and exceeding state standards on standardized tests.

The school system has added "Rigor Meters" in every classroom, so teachers can measure how far their students are progressing, in terms of learning the Georgia Performance Standards, through the school year.

Some schools have even taken steps to get students to take ownership of their scores, involving them in efforts to amp up excitement about taking, and doing well, on the tests.

In a written statement, Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley said students and educators at the six recognized schools should be "commended" for their efforts to improve their schools.

"These performances are indicative of the great things that are happening throughout Clayton County Public Schools." Heatley said. "The foundation for this achievement can be found in our commitment to increased rigor across the district's classrooms. We have asked our teachers to express to their students high expectations for academic performance.

"Those expectations are being answered in a positive manner," Heatley added.

During the 2009-2010 school year, 50 of Clayton County's 61 schools made AYP. In the case of the six schools recognized Wednesday, each of them saw their biggest gains in math.

Of the five elementary schools, Fountain Elementary, had the biggest gain on the CRCT math section, with the number of students meeting or exceeding state standards going up 14 percentage points.

Lovejoy High School saw a 3-percent increase in the number of students meeting or exceeding standards on the math section of the graduation test.

Heatley said the school system will not rest on the accomplishment of the recent gains, but will continue to push for improvements in student performance systemwide.

Another positive sign for the district came last month, when it was announced that every high school had at least 90 percent of its students meeting, or exceeding, state standards on the writing portion of the graduation test.

"While this [the state awards] is great news, we remain committed to maintaining, and enhancing, an instructional program that will successfully prepare Clayton County's youths for a future in the global economy," Heatley said. "We will not fail in our mission to provide a competitive education that will enable them to become productive, responsible citizens."