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Two Newton schools named to 'focus' list

COVINGTON -- Two Newton County public elementary schools have been included on a list of 156 schools in the state labeled as "focus" schools under the state's new accountability system.

Focus schools are one step above the state's worst-performing schools -- called "priority" schools -- which were released last week. Newton's Challenge Charter Academy was named to that list.

The "focus" schools are Title I schools with a graduation rate of less than 60 percent over two years or that have large gaps between the highest achieving and lowest achieving subgroup or subgroups of students on campus.

Live Oak Elementary and West Newton Elementary were each named to the "focus" list based on achievement gaps between the highest performing subgroups of students and the lowest performing.

Other designations for school performance under the state's new accountability standards are "alert" schools and "reward" schools. All designations will be handed out by the fall. The designations identify schools that will receive assistance and support for improvement.

Georgia falls under the new accountability system based on a waiver it received in February freeing the state's public schools from requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act. Nine other states also received waivers.Since 2001, under the federal NCLB act, schools and school systems across the nation have been required to meet a certain set of standards based on scores, attendance and participation in order to meet AYP requirements. Georgia previously used 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.

Schools were measured as a whole and divided by subgroups like ethnicities, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged.

Each year, the standards were raised. By 2014, the act would have required that all students must be proficient in reading and math.

Now, the states excused from the law no longer have to meet that deadline. Instead, they will have to put forth plans showing they will prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst.