Report shows system, eight schools fail to meet AYP

COVINGTON -- Although fewer schools in Georgia are on the state's Needs Improvement list, more Newton County schools are on the list this year.

The preliminary report of Adequate Yearly Progress shows that 15 schools in the Newton County School System met the state's AYP requirements this year, but the remaining eight did not, placing four on the Needs Improvement list. Last school year, two schools were on the Needs Improvement list after the final report.

The district as a whole also did not meet AYP, according to the preliminary results.

"Our results are not what they should be now, nor what they will be in the future," said Superintendent Gary Mathews in a press release from NCSS on Monday. "An eternal optimist, I'm confident that if we systematically examine data for strengths and weaknesses, understand and implement best practices with fidelity at the district and classroom level, our students will be the benefactors. But, first, real school improvement begins with looking in the mirror as we will not be a system which looks out the window for all outside factors that bind our hands. Improvement begins with each of us, a student at a time."

Mathews began his tenure as superintendent July 1.

Since 2001, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools and school systems across the nation are required to meet a certain set of standards based on scores, attendance and participation in order to meet AYP requirements. Georgia uses the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and the Georgia High School Graduation Tests, as well as other collected data like elementary school absenteeism and a high school's graduation rate as the basis for its AYP standards.

It also analyzes several subgroups like Students With Disabilities, Economically Disadvantaged and those in various race categories.

Each year, those standards may increase in various areas.

"The academic bar and the graduation rate requirement increased this year, leading to a smaller percentage of schools making AYP, which is something we will focus closely on over the next several months," said state School Superintendent Brad Bryant in a press release from the state.

Schools that don't meet AYP on a regular basis eventually may be placed on the state's Needs Improvement list, depending on their past performance.

This year in Newton County, Ficquett, Middle Ridge and Porterdale elementary schools; Cousins, Indian Creek, Liberty and Veterans Memorial middle schools; and Newton High School did not meet AYP. Middle Ridge and the four middle schools did not meet AYP because of the academic performance of students with disabilities; Ficquett did not meet it because of the academic performance of students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged; and Porterdale Elementary and Newton High did not meet it due to schoolwide performance in math and performance in some subgroups.

The designation places Ficquett Elementary and Cousins Middle schools and keeps Middle Ridge Elementary and Indian Creek Middle schools on the state's Needs Improvement list, as they did not meet AYP for two or more consecutive years, according to the preliminary results.

Last school year, the system as a whole did not meet AYP with preliminary results, along with six schools. Later, with the final results, the system and three more schools met AYP.

The final results, which usually are released in September, include retest results from students who took the standardized tests like the CRCT and the graduation tests again over the summer.

In Georgia, more than 71 percent of Georgia's public schools met AYP, which is down from the 79 percent that met it last year.

"We are frustrated over the fact that the original authorization of No Child Left Behind came with the promise that it would be reauthorized in five years with increased flexibility in return for increased accountability," Bryant said. "Once again we call upon Congress to act in a manner which supports the hundreds of thousands of teachers and school leaders across the nation who are more focused on student learning than ever before."

A complete AYP report on each school and school system across Georgia is available on the GaDOE website, www.gadoe.org.