Only three schools miss AYP

LAWRENCEVILLE - All but three Gwinnett County schools met the state's student achievement goals this year.

Of 108 Gwinnett County schools required to meet state standards, 105 made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the 2008-09 school year, according to initial reports released Tuesday by the Georgia Department of Education. The three that did not meet standards are Berkmar High, Central Gwinnett High and Phoenix High.

"This year, more Gwinnett schools made AYP than ever before," Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said. "That is a testament to the work of our schools, especially the work of our teachers who ensure that students learn and are prepared for the future.

"We realize that the standards for making AYP continue to increase and as a district we are committed to raising student achievement and meeting those standards. I am confident that as the achievement bar continues to rise, our schools will rise to the occasion, proving as they have this year that they are up to the challenge."

For the third consecutive year, all of Buford's schools made AYP.

Statewide, more than 79 percent of public schools - more than 10 percentage points more than last year - met the annual academic performance benchmarks that states, school districts, schools and subpopulations of students must achieve each year under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. The state has 2,172 public schools.

"The initial AYP results demonstrate that our students are continuing to make excellent progress even as we raise expectations," State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox said. "Clearly, our teachers and students are working harder than ever and we're seeing the results."

The number of elementary and middle schools in Georgia that made AYP increased this year. In Gwinnett, all elementary and middle schools made adequate progress.

The percentage of high schools making AYP, however, continues to lag behind. This year, just more than 47 percent of the state's high schools made AYP, a slight decrease from 2008's initial results.

AYP, the formula used to determine if schools are meeting expectations under NCLB, 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, all of the academic goals remained the same as 2008, although 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 to make AYP, according to the state Department of Education. Schools that do not make AYP for two consecutive years in the same subject are placed in "Needs Improvement" status and face escalating consequences.

The three Gwinnett schools that failed to make AYP missed the mark because of a second indicator - the graduation rate.

There are 334 schools in Georgia in "Needs Improvement" status for the coming school year. These schools must offer parents options, such as public school choice or federally funded tutoring. Depending on how long these schools have been designated as "Needs Improvement," some may have to make structural or organizational changes to improve student achievement.

In Gwinnett, four schools are on the "Needs Improvement" list, but two of those schools - Meadowcreek High and Richards Middle - made AYP this year. If they make it again next year, they will be taken off the list. In the meantime, both schools must continue to offer school choice, while Meadowcreek must also offer supplemental educational services, or federally funded tutoring.

Meadowcreek High School principal Bob Jackson attributed the school's success to the hard work of the faculty, staff and students.

"(Making AYP) merely validates the good things going on at Meadowcreek High School," Jackson said, adding that the school will continue to focus on literacy and improving student achievement during the upcoming year.

Berkmar High and Phoenix High, both on the "Needs Improvement" list, must offer parents the choice to transfer their children to other schools. As an open campus, Phoenix students already have that option. The school will also offer locally funded tutoring. Berkmar parents who opt for school choice will be reimbursed for the cost of transporting their child to a different school. Students who choose not to transfer can take advantage of supplemental educational services.

The other high school that did not make AYP this year - Central Gwinnett - does not face consequences because it met goals in 2008.

Meanwhile, Gwinnett's Sweetwater and Radloff middle schools were taken off the "Needs Improvement" list after making AYP for two consecutive years. Across the state, 58 schools shook the "Needs Improvement" label.

"We're going to continue to stay the course," Sweetwater Middle School principal Georgann Eaton said. "I absolutely believe (the achievement is due to) our parents, teachers and community all working together, and that form of not working in isolation is invaluable."

Eaton said the school's goal is to increase the number of students who are not just meeting but exceeding standards on the state's Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT). She also wants the school to become a Title I Distinguished School.

The state's final AYP report will be released in the fall and will include summer retest scores and summer graduates.

SideBar: At a glance

· Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is the formula used to determine if schools are meeting expectations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

· All Buford schools made AYP for the 2008-09 school year.

· Of 108 Gwinnett County schools required to meet state standards, 105 made AYP.

· Sweetwater Middle, Radloff Middle and Oakland Meadow School moved off the "Needs Improvement" list, having made AYP for two consecutive years.

· Of Gwinnett's three schools that did not make AYP, one - Central Gwinnett High - does not face consequences because it made AYP the previous year.

· The other two schools that did not make AYP - Berkmar High and Phoenix High - are considered "Needs Improvement" schools and must offer school choice and tutoring.

· Richards Middle and Meadowcreek High made AYP this year but need to make it again next year to move off the "Needs Improvement" list. Both schools must offer choice, and Meadowcreek must also offer tutoring.