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Three schools failed to meet AYP standards

Three McDuffie County schools did not meet the federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards in the 2010-11 school year, school board members were told during a Tuesday morning planning session.

Mychele Rhodes, the school district's director of curriculum and instruction, presented the initial reports from July to the board, revealing that Norris Elementary, Thomson Elementary, and Thomson High School all failed to meet the academic performance objectives established by No Child Left Behind. Rhodes said that because of some retests, those numbers could change in the final report to be released at the end of September, and THS would almost certainly exceed the standards.

Thomson Middle School surpassed the academic objectives for the first time in two years. The school's past scores have put it in the "needs improvement" category and meant that it required "supplemental services," but it could get off that list by exceeding standards in 2012.

"I would commend the middle school for an excellent job because you were on the hot seat and you came through," said Superintendent Jim LeBrun.

With its second straight year of below average test scores, Rhodes said Norris will now require supplemental services to create new plans in order to improve those scores. It was the first time Thomson Elementary did not meet the standards, so like the district as a whole, it is categorized as "level 0" Needs Improvement, meaning there are no direct consequences.

Rhodes said as the standards continue to rise towards the impossible goal of 100 percent passing and 100 percent high school graduation in 2014, school districts across the state are increasingly starting to feel the effects. Only 31 systems in Georgia had all their schools meet the standards, and none of those were in the surrounding counties.

LeBrun and other board members praised Thomson 85.8 percent graduation rate, which was just above the federal standards and more than six percent better than the state average. Still, LeBrun conceded it's unlikely the school will meet the target of 90 percent for 2012.

"That's really how absurd this whole thing is," LeBrun said. "85 percent is a wonderful graduation rate."

At every school in the district, the report showed more students passed the English and Language Arts tests than the math tests. Rhodes said that was a statewide trend that the district is looking to fix, and she also stressed putting more focus on science, which does not factor in to the Adequate Yearly Progress standards.

Rhodes also reminded the board that politicians in Washington, D.C., are re-evaluating the academic standards.

In other business, LeBrun said the district will be charging $20 per week for students to participate in the after-school programs, in which around 500 students participated last year. The superintendent said the new fees came about because of a substantial decrease in available grant funding, but the board is looking into the possibility of need-based grant funding for families through the Division of Family and Children Services.

Kenna Scraggs of Parrish Construction Group told the board renovations to The Brickyard that started seven weeks ago are on budget and on schedule to be completed before Thomson's first home football game on Sept. 23. The new bleachers will expand the stadium's capacity to approximately 6,000 people.

The board tentatively agreed to donate the lot in front of the Old Dearing Elementary School to the town of Dearing. Mayor Sean Kelley previously told the board that he plans to turn the lot into a park with playground equipment and a walking track.

Web posted on Thursday, August 11, 2011

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