LAWRENCEVILLE - Although the number of Georgia public schools meeting federal No Child Left Behind requirements plummeted this year, more schools in Gwinnett County met the state's accountability goals, according to information released Friday by the Georgia Department of Education.
Every school in the Brookwood, Collins Hill, Duluth, Grayson, Mill Creek, Norcross, North Gwinnett, Parkview, Peachtree Ridge and Shiloh clusters made adequate yearly progress, or AYP, this year, Gwinnett County Public Schools announced. Only six of the 105 schools required to meet state standards - Alcova Elementary, Richards Middle, Snellville Middle, Phoenix High, Berkmar High and Meadowcreek High - failed to make AYP.
AYP is measured based on math and reading test scores, attendance and graduation rates, among other factors. The No Child Left Behind law was adopted in 2002 and aims for all U.S. students to perform math and reading on grade level by 2014.
Likewise, Buford City Schools continued its progress, with all four schools as well as the district making adequate yearly progress for the second year in a row.
"Obviously the high expectations for academic achievement that we're setting are being achieved," Buford City Schools Superintendent Geye Hamby said. "We're making great efforts to make sure we're consistent with curriculum implementation and in following the Georgia Performance Standards ... which makes a tremendous difference in achievement levels."
In Barrow County, however, more schools failed to make AYP. During the 2006-07 school year, four schools did not make adequate progress. That number doubled this year.
"While it is disappointing that some of the AYP scores for the system and individual schools were not what we wished they would be, we will continue to seek ways to provide a quality education to all our students," Barrow County Schools Superintendent Ron Saunders said. "We have identified a key subject area - math - that we will be concentrating on with our students who have needs of improvement.
"Students with disabilities, black students and economically disadvantaged students fell short of meeting state and federal requirements. Our challenge for the upcoming school year is to work tirelessly with these students so they can be successful on the CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests) and GHSGT (Georgia High School Graduation Test) given in the spring of 2009."
Overall, the district met 97.5 percent - or 780 out of 800 - of the required goals for the school year, Saunders said.
"There may be many reasons why we as a system do not make 100 percent of the goals. However, there are no excuses," he said. "We will continue to work to make sure all of our students achieve."
Schools that miss AYP two years in a row are put on the 'needs improvement' list. Those schools must offer extra tutoring for struggling students and give parents the option to send their children to another, higher-performing school. Schools on the list for several years in a row face more severe sanctions, like having to replace teachers and enter into a contract with the state on improving performance.
In Gwinnett, the middle and high schools that did not make AYP this year are all on the list, with Meadowcreek High facing the most severe consequences of the group. No Barrow County schools made the list.
The number of schools in Georgia on the 'needs improvement' list increased by 17 to 340, even though 37 schools were removed after making AYP two years in a row. The Gwinnett schools removed from the list this year were Lilburn Middle, Shiloh Middle, Summerour Middle and Norcross High.
Another 69 schools in the state on the list - including Radloff Middle and Sweetwater Middle in Gwinnett County - made AYP for the first time, which means they will be off it if they hit benchmarks again.
Radloff Middle's principal, Patty Heitmuller, said she is "absolutely thrilled" with the results.
"I think it really has been four years in the making. We have been so close two other years," Heitmuller said. "I can't wait to celebrate with the staff. More than anything, I can't wait to celebrate with the kids."
Heitmuller likened making AYP to a playoff game. Her team will celebrate the win, but she said they must also focus on the next game.
Last year, the school provided more instructional time in math - 40 additional minutes per day - and students performed very well in that subject. This year, the school will keep the extended math period but also work to identify students who are struggling with reading, she said.
Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said this year's results show the district is doing well overall, but there is still room to improve with some small groups of students.
"As Gwinnett has grown in size and diversity, achievement has remained high even as the state standards have risen," he said in a statement. "That has not happened by accident, but rather because of our intense focus on helping all students achieve their potential. ... Our school improvement efforts will continue to focus on meeting the needs of students who come to us with the most challenges, including those who are learning English and those who have disabilities."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.