LAWRENCEVILLE -- Although fewer Gwinnett schools are in Needs Improvement status, the number of schools that failed to meet expectations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act increased this year.
The initial Adequate Yearly Progress report, released Monday by the Georgia Department of Education, shows 89 percent of Gwinnett County's public schools met the state's accountability goals. Last year, 99 percent of the district's schools made AYP.
That's a trend that was also seen statewide, as the number of schools throughout Georgia that made AYP fell from 79 percent to 71 percent this year. State officials said the drop was due in large part to the raising of the academic bar in mathematics that students in elementary and middle school had to meet for a school to make AYP. The graduation rate that high schools were required to meet also increased this year to 80 percent.
"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. As a result, we are helping more students reach their potential," Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said.
"In terms of AYP this year, we really must look at the big picture. While we may have seen a slight increase in the number of schools not making AYP this year, our students actually are achieving at higher levels today than ever before. Our focus must continue to be on increasing achievement for individual students and subgroups of students who struggle with the higher standards."
Of the 13 Gwinnett schools that did not make AYP -- Berkmar High, Berkmar Middle, Central Gwinnett High, GIVE Center West, Hopkins Elementary, Lanier Middle, Lilburn Elementary, Phoenix High, Shiloh Middle, Snellville Middle, South Gwinnett High, Summerour Middle and Sweetwater Middle -- most missed the mark in the subcategory of students with disabilities.
AYP is the complex formula used to determine if schools are meeting expectations under NCLB. It consists of three parts -- test participation, academic achievement and another statistic, called a second indicator. The second indicator is attendance at elementary and middle schools and the graduation rate in high schools.
All students at a school, as well as any qualifying subgroup of students, must meet goals in all three categories for the school to make AYP. At diverse schools, which usually have several subcategories of students, it becomes more difficult to make AYP.
The final AYP report will be released in the fall and will include summer retest scores, summer graduates and appeals. It's possible that some schools that did not make AYP in the initial report will pass muster when all the data is evaluated. For example, Central Gwinnett High met AYP in all but one category -- the second indicator -- and the school was just six graduates shy of hitting the required 80 percent graduation rate.
The Needs Improvement list
One highlight for Gwinnett was that two schools moved off the Needs Improvement list this year, leaving just two schools in the district on the in that category.
For the second year in a row, Meadowcreek High and Richards Middle made AYP, joining 33 other schools in the state that shook the Needs Improvement label.
Richards Middle failed to make AYP for the four years before Reginald Kirkland became principal of the school. He said the school had hard-working administrators, teachers and students that have made a difference during the past two years.
"J.E. Richards has been one of the best-kept secrets for a long time. It's been an outstanding school," Kirkland said. "We know the kids here are learning in an environment that's conducive to student learning. ... AYP is following behind what we know about the school."
Even though the academic bar will continue to be raised until 2014 -- the year all students are expected to be at 100 percent proficiency -- Kirkland said he has faith in the school system's curriculum and approach to providing children with a world-class education that will help all children succeed.
Meadowcreek High has gone back and forth on making AYP, but until this year, it hadn't met the requirements to be taken off the NI list. Principal Bob Jackson said he's happy for the students, faculty, staff and community.
"By making AYP and meeting the standards, it's further proof that effective teaching and learning is taking place at Meadowcreek High School," he said.
Of the schools that did not make AYP, the two schools that remain on the Needs Improvement list -- Berkmar High and Phoenix High -- are the only ones that face consequences. Berkmar High will continue to offer Public School Choice, or student transfers, and Supplemental Educational Services, or Title I-funded tutoring.
Berkmar High will mail letters to notify parents of their school's status and of the process for requesting a transfer to another school through the choice option and for receiving supplemental educational services.
In addition to outlining the choice procedures, the letter will provide a listing of high schools designated to accept choice transfer students for the 2010-11 school year.
Those schools are Archer, Mountain View and Dacula. The letter also notifies parents of the dates for AYP Information Sessions, designed to allow parents to learn about their options before making a transfer decision.
The school system will accept requests for choice transfers until Aug. 6. These approved transfers will go into effect the first week of school.
Designated as Needs Improvement for the fourth year, Phoenix High will stay in corrective action. As an open campus facility, its students have choice to transfer. The school also will provide locally funded tutoring.
Buford maintains AYP success
In Buford, all the schools once again met AYP, and the superintendent said the district is focused on continuing its improvement.
"We are very pleased with the recently published AYP results," Superintendent Geye Hamby said. "Our faculty and staff are to be commended. Our faculty and staff have also worked very hard to make sure every student in our school system finds success. We're very fortunate to work with the children we have in our school system and very fortunate to have such a wonderful, supportive community."
Barrow and Loganville schools
In Barrow County, four of the 14 schools did not make AYP -- Apalachee and Winder-Barrow high schools, Russell Middle and Bethlehem Elementary.
In Walton County, Loganville Elementary, Middle and High all met the standards.
To view the AYP report for any public school in the state, visit the AYP database at www.doe.k12.ga.us/ayp2010.aspx.