Coweta schools make strides in AYP requirements

It has been seven years in the making and, for the first time since 2003, the Coweta County School System has no schools on the state Needs Improvement list and all but two schools achieved the required Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

The AYP report released July 19 by the Ga. Dept. of Education (DOE) reflects how schools perform based on state standardized test scores. As a result of this performance, the district will no longer be required to offer initial transfers for students to schools outside of their assigned district, according to school system spokesperson Dean Jackson.

Jackson explained that schools are placed on the Needs Improvement List when they do not make AYP for two consecutive years in the same content area.

“This has been a goal of ours for several years. With 28 schools and rising achievement requirements, not having a school on Needs Improvement is a significant accomplishment,” said Superintendent Blake Bass.

Jackson said that upon the first release of school and system data, all schools have made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) with the exception of Newnan High School and Evans Middle School. Students who did not show mastery of standards on the CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Test) participated in a retest session at the end of May. Because of results already received from these retests, Evans is fully expected to make AYP once these retest scores are factored into the AYP formula, Jackson said.

Part of the No Child Left Behind federal guidelines include an increasing rate of the percentage of students that must pass state standardized test scores charting a course for 100 percent of all students to pass by 2014, said Jackson. As a result of the annual increase of students who must pass, high schools face the greatest challenge where the largest population of students and student subgroups exist.

High schools are measured on the scores of their first time test-takers taking the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) and on the school’s graduation rate. This year, 74.9 percent of the first time test-takers had to meet the Enhanced High School Graduation scores to pass the Math portion of the GHSGT, and 87.7 percent had to meet the Enhanced High School Graduation scores to pass the English/Language Arts portion of the test, Jackson said.

Jackson noted that although 90 percent of Newnan High School’s test-takers passed the Math portion of the high school graduation test, this fell short for AYP purposes where students must pass at an enhanced level in order to count for AYP. According to the Georgia Department of Education’s data, only 33.25 percent of high schools met this Enhanced standard.

As a result of these assessment scores and before retests and summer graduate rates are calculated in the formula, the district did not make AYP for the 2010 school year, said Jackson.

“Although AYP may not be a truly accurate measure of how our students perform daily, it is an instrument to show the school system where concentration needs to be applied,” said Superintendent Blake Bass. An example of this is the high school graduation rate. For several years, using AYP as our standard, our teachers have worked hard and just this year, our high school graduation rate rose from 81.7 to 84.0 percent.”

DOE spokesperson Matt Cordoza said last week that fewer Georgia schools are in Needs Improvement (NI) status, according to the initial AYP report. Just over 14 percent of schools are in NI status this year, compared to 15.4 percent last year. Thirty-five schools across the state shook the Needs Improvement label by having made AYP for two consecutive years.

"The initial AYP results demonstrate that our schools are more focused than ever and that is translating into fewer schools in Needs Improvement status," said State School Superintendent Brad Bryant. "However, 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.”

Cordoza said more than 71 percent of Georgia's public schools made AYP, a drop from 79 percent of schools that made AYP last year. This drop is due in large part to the increase in the academic bar in mathematics that students in elementary and middle school had to meet in order for a school to make AYP. The graduation rate that high schools must meet also increased this year to 80 percent.

Cordoza said the final AYP report will be released in the fall and will include summer retest scores, summer graduates and appeals. Compared to initial AYP results last year, the 2010 report shows that:
- The percentage of schools in NI status decreased from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent.
- The number of schools in NI status decreased from 334 to 305.
- The percentage of schools making AYP decreased eight points from 79.1 percent to 71.1 percent.

The percentage of high schools making AYP continues to lag behind. In 2010, just over 33 percent of the state's high schools made AYP, a decrease of almost 14 percentage points from 2009's initial results.

"We know there is a lot of hard work going on in our high schools, but we must provide more focused support for our students and teachers," Superintendent Bryant said. "I am committed to focusing on the needs of our high schools to ensure they are preparing students for the 21st century."

AYP is the formula used to determine if schools are meeting expectations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It consists of three parts: test participation, academic achievement and another statistic, called a "second indicator." The academic goals continue to rise every few years toward a goal of 100 percent proficiency for all students by 2014. This year, the academic goal for grades 3-8 increased in mathematics and the graduation rate bar went up.

All students at a school, as well as any qualifying subgroup of students, must meet goals in all three categories in order to make AYP. Schools that do not make AYP for two consecutive years in the same subject are placed in Needs Improvement status and face escalating consequences.
Initial results show that 35 schools came out of Needs Improvement status by making AYP for the second consecutive year.

"Getting out of NI status isn't easy," Superintendent Bryant said. "These 35 schools should be very proud of their accomplishments, but have to remain focused so they continue making improvements."

There are 305 schools in NI status for the coming school year, according to Cordoza. These schools must offer parents options, such as public school choice or federally-funded tutoring. Depending on how long these schools have been in NI, some may have to make structural or organizational changes to improve student achievement.

In 2009, there were 334 NI schools after the initial results. That number dropped to 278 after retests, summer graduates and appeals were worked into the formula.

"As we normally do, I believe we will see the number of NI schools drop again when we do our final AYP determinations in the fall," Superintendent Bryant said.

Cordoza said the state's initial 2010 graduation rate is 79.9%. That is up from the initial 2009 graduation rate of 77.8 percent and the final 2009 graduation rate of 78.9 percent, which included summer graduates.

"Improving the graduation rate is crucial to Georgia being competitive with other states in recruiting and retaining jobs," Superintendent Bryant said. "The more students graduating from high school with a meaningful diploma, the more students we have ready to go to college or enter the workforce. There is still more work to be done, but this year's graduation rate is an encouraging sign."

Cordoza said the graduation rate must be used as a "second indicator" for all high schools and the bar was raised this year.

In order to make AYP, a high school had to have a graduation rate of 80 percent or higher, up from 75 percent last year. If a school did not make that goal, they could use a "second look" which means:
-Having a graduation rate that averaged 80 percent or higher over the past three years, or
-Having a graduation rate of at least 60 percent the previous year (2009) and showing a 10 percent improvement in the rate this year.

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