15 of 23 Newton County schools make AYP

COVINGTON --Newton County schools surpassed expectations when 15 of the systems 23 schools made Adequate Yearly Progress, according to final results released Wednesday from the state Department of Education.

When preliminary AYP results for the 2010-11 school year were announced in July, the Newton County School System as a whole, as well as 10 of the 23 schools -- including Challenge Charter Academy -- did not meet AYP standards. At the time, Superintendent Gary Mathews predicted that 19 of the 23 schools would not make AYP as a result of a required increase in performance areas.

Consequently, Wednesday's news was welcome.

"Congratulations to our system's students and staff are in order, especially when you realize that we were predicted to have 19 schools miss AYP last year," Mathews said in a prepared release. "Instead, we had only seven miss AYP with Ficquett (Elementary School) and Cousins (Middle School), for example, missing AYP by less than one student given the calculations."

AYP is the formula used to determine if schools are meeting expectations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The designation is a reflection of the individual schools' performance on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and Georgia High School Graduation Tests, as well as other collected data like elementary and middle school absenteeism and a high school's graduation rate.

Students who failed the math portion of the CRCT in the spring were offered remediation and the opportunity to retest. These scores were then calculated by the state and included in the Georgia DOE's final AYP report. With the retest scores included, Live Oak, Livingston, and Middle Ridge have now made AYP for the 20102011 school year.

Although three more schools have made AYP, Newton County School System as a whole did not make AYP in 201011.

The seven schools that did not make AYP are: Alcovy High School, Newton High School, Clements Middle School, Cousins Middle School, Oak Hill Elementary School, West Newton Elementary School and Ficquett Elementary School.

A school that does not meet the criteria for any subgroup, such as racial ethnicity, economic status or limited English proficiency, is classified as not meeting AYP -- even if the school as a whole meets the criteria.

For example, Mathews said, Live Oak Elementary School did not make AYP because of the performance of the black students' subgroup in math. Livingston Elementary School did not make AYP due to the performance of both the black and economically disadvantaged students' subgroups in math. Middle Ridge Elementary did not make AYP as a result of the performance of the Students with Disabilities subgroup in English Language Arts/Reading, the press release stated.

Schools that do not meet AYP for two consecutive years are placed on the Needs Improvement List, and are subject to escalating consequences. Schools can be taken off the Needs Improvement List once they meet AYP for two consecutive years.

In Newton County, Ficquett and Middle Ridge elementary schools are currently on the Needs Improvement List. However, Ficquett Elementary School is no longer in operation, with most of its students attending the newly opened Flint Hill Elementary School. If Middle Ridge makes AYP for the 20112012 school year, it will be removed from the Needs Improvement List.

Even with the positive news, Mathews said the time is ripe to make significant changes to the No Child Left Behind Act.

"A change in the NoChild LeftBehind accountability system is certainly in order as it has really outlived its usefulness," he said. "Going forward, Georgia's new AYP proposal to the federal government -- if approved -- will begin to focus less on minimum competency and more on college and career readiness. While challenging, I believe Georgia's new AYP emphasis promises to better serve students and their futures. It will require a greater emphasis on academic rigor, relevance, and relationships in our schools if we are to be successful. We are committed to such success."

Also, according to the 2010-11 AYP report released Wednesday, Newton County's graduation rate also increased slightly over last year. Based on information from the Georgia Department of Education, Newton County's graduation rate was 84.2 in 2009-10. The latest figures show that the county has an 85 percent graduation rate in 2010-11.

Staff Reporter Michelle Floyd contributed to this story.