Revised regulations add three more Coweta schools to ‘pass’ list

A Nov. 3 update in testing results under the federal No Child Left Behind Act means that three more Coweta County schools made “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) during 2011. The new total means that 25 of Coweta’s 28 schools reached their AYP goals.

Northgate High School, Lee Middle School and Ruth Hill Elementary School all made AYP in 2011. Their status was revised under a Nov. 3 amended No Child Left Behind (NCLB) report issued by the Georgia Dept. of Education (DOE).

“Our retest and remediation efforts proved to be beneficial for our students,” said Superintendent Steve Barker. “As a result, our performance under current No Child Left Behind measures have exceeded state performance, even with the escalating requirements that we experienced this year.”

Also in 2011, the school system as a whole had a graduation rate of 82.1 percent, down slightly from 84.4 percent in 2010, said school system spokesman Dean Jackson. At the same time, said Jackson, the requirement of NCLB increased the graduation rate standard from 80 percent required to make AYP in 2010 to 85 percent in 2011. The system as a whole was 2.9 percent under that increased graduation rate, Jackson said.

By comparison, said Jackson, all Coweta County schools made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 2009, and only one did not make AYP in 2010.

Because of the increase in the required graduation rate under NCLB, the Coweta County School System did not make AYP during 2011, according to the 2011 report.

Jackson said following the significant increases in the minimum measures of the NCLB Act in 2011, 37 percent of Georgia schools did not make AYP.

With the Nov. 3 revision, 11 percent of Coweta schools did not make AYP during the same year, including East Coweta High School, Newnan High School and Poplar Road Elementary School.

Jackson said Coweta schools in many cases would have made AYP under last year’s passage rates but did not make it in 2011 because the bar was raised. Some schools met the bar among students overall but did not make AYP because of performance within one or more subgroups, Jackson added.

East Coweta High School did not make AYP because of subgroup passage rates for math and English/Language Arts graduation tests and overall graduation rate.

Newnan High School did not make AYP because of overall graduation rate.

Poplar Road Elementary School did not make AYP because of subgroup passage rates on CRCT math. Overall school population met AYP bar.

As school systems across the nation have experienced difficulties in meeting escalating NCLB standards in all subgroups, there has been increasing agreement that AYP performance calculations should be revisited, said Jackson. DOE, education agencies from other states and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have said that current NCLB legislation is in need of adjustment. Duncan has said that he is prepared to give public schools relief from federal mandates under NCLB if Congress does not pass the law’s long-awaited overhaul and reauthorization, which is four years overdue, according to Duncan.

Meantime, state school Superintendent John Barge has submitted a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education outlining new measures that will be used to evaluate Georgia school performance. The waiver is expected to be approved or denied before the end of the calendar year, according to state officials.

“We are encouraged by the prospects of approval of the state’s new evaluation system because it would measure our student, school and system performance more accurately,” said Barker.

NCLB was developed by the federal government nearly a decade ago as a new accountability system for the nation’s public schools. Schools are required to meet escalating pass rates on high stakes tests in English and math and must meet escalating requirements set for test participation and either attendance (in elementary and middle grades) or graduation rate (in high schools).

Jackson said Coweta’s performance under NCLB in 2011 reflects state and national trends. Because of rising performance criteria, schools that do well or make significant gains in one year can still not make AYP.

Newnan High School, for example, saw an increase in math Graduation Test passage rates from 2010 to 2011, with 94 percent of students overall passed the graduation math test in 2011, up from 74.7 percent in 2010. Jackson said the school as a whole, and all subgroups, met NCLB academic standards in 2011 but did not meet graduation rates under the 2011 bar.

“With continuously rising bars for all subgroups, high schools also tend to be affected before other schools. Coweta’s three high schools have larger student populations than its elementary schools, so they have a greater AYP challenge. Middle schools also face the challenge of large testing groups, because all middle school students test,” Jackson said

For high schools, and for school systems as a whole, calculating the graduation rate also poses a higher risk for schools to be labeled as not making AYP. Students who might need more than four years and one summer semester to graduate can complete their education with a high school diploma. However, these students do not count as graduates. They are calculated as dropouts for the purposes of AYP/NCLB.

Jackson explained that students on Special Education diplomas are not counted as graduates, even though they might have met and exceeded their IEP goals. Students who successfully earn the 28 required credits to earn a diploma but who have not passed all five graduation tests also do not count as graduates. They are calculated as dropouts, Jackson noted.

To address these difficulties, educators in Coweta County are working diligently to provide opportunities for student success, Jackson said. Credit recovery programs and remediation are being offered before school, after school, and at lunch. Staff members are involved in professional development, and numerous research-based teaching methods are being employed in classrooms. However, because of the rising bar of high stakes testing as a measure, a school may receive a negative label even when students are being more successful than ever before, said Jackson.

Jackson said that due to the number of challenges created by NCLB, the Georgia High School Graduation Test will no longer be used for AYP determination after the 2010-2011 school year. This test, administered to juniors, is two years removed from much of the content that is taught during the freshman year. Beginning next year, specific End of Course Tests will be used to calculate AYP.

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