Fewer GCPS, state schools make AYP

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

SUWANEE -- Fewer schools in Gwinnett and throughout the state met accountability goals in a year when the academic bar rose in all subject areas.

The percentage of schools in Gwinnett that made adequate yearly progress was 80 percent this year, compared to 89 percent in 2010 and 99 percent in 2009. Of the 25 schools that did not meet muster, four schools that have failed to make AYP for at least two consecutive years -- Berkmar High, Phoenix High, Sweetwater Middle and Hopkins Elementary -- are on the Needs Improvement list.

Every school required to make AYP in the following clusters made it: Dacula, Grayson, Mill Creek, Mountain View, North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge. Four schools that did not make AYP last year made it this year. Those schools were Lilburn Elementary, Berkmar Middle, Lanier Middle and Snellville Middle.

Of the Gwinnett schools that did not make AYP, five were elementary schools, 11 were middle schools and nine were high schools. The schools are Anderson-Livsey Elementary, Central Gwinnett High, Creekland Middle, Duluth High, Duluth Middle, Ferguson Elementary, Five Forks Middle, Grace Snell Middle, GIVE Center East, Lanier High, Lilburn Middle, Louise Radloff Middle, McConnell Middle, Meadowcreek High, Norcross High, Parkview High, Peachtree Elementary, Pinckneyville Middle, South Gwinnett High, Summerour Middle and Cooper Elementary.

"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," GCPS Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said. "While we are pleased that the vast majority of our schools made AYP, we cannot overlook the fact that we did see an increase in schools not meeting the state's standard. Specifically, we need to look at achievement at the middle and high school levels, focusing on increasing achievement for individual students and subgroups of students who are struggling to meet the higher standards.

In Buford City Schools, Buford Academy -- the elementary school that serves students in grades 2 to 5 -- did not make AYP, but the district's superintendent said recalculations that include summer retests may change the school's status.

"Our English Language Learners subgroup did not meet the state's annual measurable objective in the area of mathematics; however, the scores were very close," Superintendent Geye Hamby said. "After the retest scores are factored in, we will most likely achieve AYP. Regardless, we are proud of the many academic achievements our students and staff have accomplished this school year."

Throughout the state, the percentage of schools that made AYP was 63.2 percent, down from 71 percent in 2010. The percentage of schools falling into Needs Improvement status rose from 15.4 percent to 17.5 percent.

"We have many great schools in the state providing a high-quality education to all students," State School Superintendent John Barge said. "But the rate at which the academic bar and the graduation rate requirement increased this year prevented more schools from making AYP. We knew we were up against the proverbial wall because this bar increases each year, and it appears that we have begun to hit it.

Adequate yearly progress is the formula used to determine if schools are meeting expectations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB consists of three parts -- test participation, academic achievement and another statistic, called a "second indicator." Elementary and middle schools typically use school attendance as their second indicator, while high schools use their graduation rate.

Under NCLB, the academic goals continue to rise every few years toward a goal of 100 percent proficiency for all students by 2014. All students at a school, as well as any qualifying subgroup of students, must meet goals in all three categories in order for the school 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.

Hopkins Elementary and Sweetwater Middle will both offer public school choice, or student transfers, as both are in their first year of Needs Improvement.

Berkmar High, which is in its third year of Needs Improvement, will continue to offer public school choice and supplemental educational services, or tutoring.

The schools will notify parents of their NI status and of the process for requesting a transfer to another school through the choice option. The schools designed to accept choice transfer students for the upcoming year are Archer High and Mountain View High, Dacula Middle and Twin Rivers Middle, and Alford Elementary and McKendree Elementary. The school district will accept request for choice transfers through Aug. 5, the Friday before school starts.

Designated as Needs Improvement for the fifth year, Phoenix High will stay in corrective action. As an open campus facility, Phoenix already offers its students public school choice. The school also provides locally funded tutoring.

Despite AYP metrics, Wilbanks said it's important for the community not to lose sight of the fact that Gwinnett schools are making progress.

"Our students are achieving at higher levels today than ever before," he said. "This is a testament to the hard work of our teachers and principals and our district's focus on teaching and learning. This is a focus that has served our district and students well in the past and it is imperative that we keep this focus, especially as we adapt to changes on the horizon, including the transition to the new Common Core Standards and the elimination of the Georgia High School Graduation Test."

AYP recalculations that include summer retests and graduations will be released this fall.