In spite of a year of notable achievements, Thomson High School - and thus the school system as a whole - failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress for the second year. The Georgia Department of Education released AYP results last week, showing all other McDuffie County schools are making progress.
"We have made significant gains, and I do know that each year it gets a little bit harder to reach the goal," said McDuffie School Board Vice Chair Georgia Hobbs. "But I'm happy with the progress that we've made at the high school, as the system we've made accreditation, and we've graduated significantly more students, and we have more students on track.."
AYP is a series of annual performance goals set by the state for each school, school district, and for the state as a whole. Georgia uses the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests as the AYP assessment tool for elementary and middle schools and the Enhanced Georgia High School Graduation Tests for high schools.
Superintendent Mark Petersen said there are more registered seniors this year than ever before and the graduation rate has increased 20 points since 2004, meaning more students are staying in school.
"We've provided safety nets for them and we're having to work with them after school and in evening school and extended semesters," he said. "And I still say there's measuring stick problems with No Child Left Behind."
The purpose of AYP is the realization of the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates a 100 percent proficiency rate for all schools by 2014. According to the GDOE website, congress is in the process of reauthorizing NCLB. The state superintendent has offered suggestions for improving the law, pointing out that more than half the schools that do not make AYP missed it because of the performance of one subgroup in one subject.
Such is the case with Thomson High School. Last year, African-American students missed the mark in mathematics, but those scores improved this year. Dr. Petersen said economically disadvantaged students scored below performance level in math this year.
According to the GDOE report, even though the subgroups were different both years, the fact that it was the same subject puts Thomson High on Needs Improvement status level one. Needs Improvement schools are not failing schools, they are schools that are in need of improvement in a specific area, according to the report. And Dr. Petersen said the system will continue to work on their plan for improvement and make changes to meet the standards.
"We know our goal is destination diploma," he said. "So you know, our teachers are working harder than they ever have before, and they are doing everything they can."
Other surrounding counties that did not make AYP include Glascock, Jefferson, Richmond, Taliaferro and Warren.