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School system appeals results of AYP report

Five of McDuffie County's six schools made Adequate Yearly Progress for the 2005-2006 school year, according to figures released by the Georgia Department of Education Tuesday.

Only Thomson High School fell short of AYP requirements, but McDuffie County's superintendent said the results for THS - which in turn caused the school system to miss AYP - have already been appealed.

"Unfortunately, we have that the system did not make AYP, but I still praise our teachers for doing a great job," said Dr. Mark Petersen. "We are now, and always have been, in the diploma business."

AYP is a series of annual performance goals set by the state for each school, school district, and for the state as a whole. The purpose of AYP is the realization of the No Child Left Behind Act. 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.

For 2005-2006, all of McDuffie County Schools passed the requirements except Thomson High School. Of the 238 high school students who took the graduation test, Dr. Petersen said only 13 black students did not pass the enhanced math portion, and three of those were special education students, who should not be factored in AYP results.

The results were so close, that Dr. Petersen filed an appeal. In his appeal, Dr. Petersen requested that 10th graders be included in the final results. Dr. Petersen said Thomson had several 10th graders who passed the test, even though they are not required to take the test until their junior year. The appeal letter was sent 10 days ago. Dr. Petersen said the state DOE responded by asking for more data, which he mailed Tuesday morning.

"So I wish I could give you more good news, but right now it's under appeal," the superintendent said.

In spite of the report, Dr. Petersen said the facts show that McDuffie students are doing very well. He said out of 176 school systems, McDuffie was ranked 14th on all the tests together, which puts them in the top seven percent.

"So we've done some great things," he said. "But trying to explain that we didn't make AYP, I haven't figured that out yet."

Dr. Petersen said the 13 students who did not meet AYP requirements did score high enough on the test to graduate. He said students can pass "with a 500 and walk across the stage, yet for AYP purposes they need a 516. ... That's why it's called enhanced math."

If schools do not make AYP, they are given a one-year reprieve so that improvements can be made. After two years of not meeting the requirements, schools are given Needs Improvement status. No McDuffie school has ever been placed on Needs Improvement status.

Last year, Thomson Middle School did not meet AYP standards for the math portion of students with disabilities. Principal Claude Powell said the teachers focused on those students this year, while not neglecting the students in the regular classroom. The plan paid off, as the middle school met AYP this year.

In addition to the focus, Mr. Powell said he feels the Renaissance Program that rewards the students who put forth effort has had a positive effect. Dr. Petersen praised the middle school students and teachers, saying that the report showed "five of six students with disabilities passed the tests."

The Warren County school system also did not make AYP this year due to the high school not meeting requirements in the enhanced math portion of the test.

Web posted on Thursday, July 13, 2006

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