McDuffie Schools Superintendent Mark Petersen's appeal on the system's failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress has been denied. Last July, the state released results of the AYP tests. Every school in McDuffie County passed AYP requirements except for Thomson High School, which in turn, caused the system as a whole to fail.
"Unfortunately, we have that the system did not make AYP, but I still praise our teachers for doing a great job," Dr. Mark Petersen said in a July interview. "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.
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.
Dr. Petersen immediately appealed the results because the high school had several 10th graders who passed the test, but were not counted in the results. The state BOE denied the appeal because students are not required to take the GHSG test until their junior year.
"According to the workbook, they told us students from the tenth grade are counted for the participation number, but not for the scores," Dr. Petersen said.
Another factor hindering the final result was inconsistent requirements from the state. Dr. Petersen said 13 students scored high enough on the GHSG test to graduate, but not high enough to make AYP.
"They can pass with a 500 and walk across the stage," he said. "Yet for AYP purposes, they need a 516."
The test is offered twice each year. Dr. Petersen said that in the future, they will try to watch when the students take the test.
"It's an issue of spring administration versus the fall administration," the Superintendent said. "So, I don't like it. But there's a lot of things about No Child Left Behind that I don't like. I'm just a peon in this whole thing. And I'm just trying to follow the rules, and try to decipher what they are, and sometimes they change the rules in the middle of the game."
In spite of the report, the facts show that McDuffie students are doing very well. Dr. Petersen said out of 176 school systems, McDuffie was ranked 14th on all the tests together, which puts them in the top 7 percent.