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School system misses AYP

Even though the bar of standards was raised across the state, all McDuffie County elementary schools made Adequate Yearly Progress, but Thomson Middle and Thomson High schools did not - and thus the whole system failed to make AYP. The Georgia Department of Education released AYP results Friday.

"The bottom line is, I'm just disappointed that the measuring didn't hold up for us, and our staff worked extremely hard meeting the needs of our kids. We are intent on leaving no child left behind, we've made some adjustments and we'll get after it come August," McDuffie Schools Superintendent Mark Petersen said.

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.

Dr. Petersen said the retests after summer school and summer graduates were not counted in the first release of AYP results, and the reports definitely should be improved in September when those retests are included.

"Our scores were much better on the retests," he said.

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.

In a statement made in the press release accompanying the report, State Superintendent Kathy Cox acknowledged the tougher standards.

"It was a lot tougher for elementary schools this year," she said. "Still, more than three out of every four elementary schools made AYP, the best performance of all grade levels."

Attaining the target progress goal was tougher because the state raised the minimum percentage of students at each school that had to score on grade level. Also, a more rigorous math curriculum was instituted, which had students attending summer school when they flunked the state's standard test.

While nearly seven out of 10 of all schools made the grade across the state, just two-thirds of middle schools did, and only 48 percent of high schools made it.

"Again, I question the measuring stick that's being used. No Child Left Behind has got some issues with it," Dr. Petersen said. "I'll just say kudos to our group, they've worked extremely hard. There are some variables there that we really don't have some control over, and we're doing the best we can. It's just extremely difficult, especially when our teachers are working as hard as they have been trying to get it done."

According to the GDOE report, Thomson Middle School Students With Disabilities did not make the grade. There were several reasons the high school missed AYP, including missing the second indicator, which was the graduation rate, and test failure in the two subgroups of black students and Economically Disadvantaged students.

However, McDuffie County was not alone. Seven of the eight surrounding counties school systems failed to make AYP this year, including Columbia, Glascock, Lincoln, Richmond, Taliaferro, Warren and Wilkes.

Web posted on Thursday, July 31, 2008

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