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Posted: July 21, 2011 3:42 p.m.

Newton School system fails AYP

The Newton County School System has failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress for the second year in a row, due to the large amount of students failing Criterion Referenced Competency Tests.

According to preliminary results, 12 of 23 schools made AYP, which was a better pass rate than the state had projected. The state had expected 19 Newton schools to fail. See more on statewide results here.

Though the results were better than expected, results could prove expensive for the school system, because the state requires more spending on professional development when a system experiences a second consecutive failure.

Still, Superintendent Gary Mathews noted the progress the system made.

"When last school year began, based on past performance (in 2009-10) and required higher passing percentages under No Child Left Behind (in 2010-11), we were faced with a stark prediction of 19 schools not making AYP," Mathews said in a release. "As things stand now, we have bested that prediction by far and stand to do even better when retest data are included in the final results. Our students enjoyed higher passing rates in 28 of 37 instances in 2010-2011, inclusive of all grades and subjects tested by CRCTs and the GHSGTs. That's a 76 percent improvement over 2009-2010, despite ever-increasing passing standards under NCLB. Every year the bar is raised."

AYP is created to judge each school's performance in several criteria: percentage of students taking the test; the percentage of students meeting standards in reading/language arts and mathematics; and for elementary and middle school students, the percentage of student attendance. For high schools, the second indicator is graduation rate.

The performance of several subgroups is also analyzed. These subgroups include students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged, ethnicity, and limited English proficiency.

A school that fails to achieve the criteria in any one of the three areas (test participation, academic achievement, and attendance/graduation) for any subgroup is classified as not meeting AYP. Should any of the subgroups fail to meet the standards, the school is also classified as not meeting AYP, even if the school as a whole meets the criteria.

In all of the schools not meeting AYP it was due to subgroup performance, not the performance of the majority of the students.

Four of the schools not meeting AYP, Alcovy High, Cousins Middle, Middle Ridge and Oak Hill Elementary, failed due to the academic performance of students with disabilities. At Live Oak Elementary, the black subgroup caused the school to fail AYP, and at Ficquett Elementary, the failure was due to the performance of black, economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities subgroups, according to preliminary results.

The following schools failed to meet AYP:

Elementary Schools
Ficquett:
This is the third year in a row that this school has failed to make AYP. However, once the results from retests are calculated, the school is expected to be just one student away from making AYP. The failure is due to the black and economically disadvantaged subgroups failing math and the students with disabilities subgroup failing in English. This school was closed and will reopen as the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett.

Live Oak: If district estimates are correct, when retest scores come in from students at Live Oak, the school is expected to meet AYP. In preliminary results the failure is due to the performance of the black student subgroup in math. Because the school did make AYP last year, they are not currently on the Needs Improvement list.

Livingston: The performance of both the black and economically disadvantaged students caused this school to fail AYP in math. Like Live Oak, Livingston did make AYP last year and is expected to meet this year once retest scores are calculated.

Middle Ridge: While district estimates show Middle Ridge will likely meet AYP once retest scores are in, the school must continue to offer school choice due to previous failures. The school failed AYP due to English/language arts failures by the students with disabilities subgroup.

Oak Hill: Because of the students with disabilities subgroup, Oak Hill failed to meet AYP. However, they did meet it last year and are not on the Needs Improvement list.

West Newton: Students school-wide failed to meet AYP in math and both the black and economically disadvantaged subgroup failed to meet the standards in math as well. The school did meet AYP last year, meaning they will not be placed on the Needs Improvement list this year.

Middle Schools
Cousins:
The school failed to meet AYP because of the math and English/language arts failure of the students with disabilities subgroup. According to a press release from the school system, Cousins is the only school in the system that has continued to show improvement at every grade level and in every subject in the 2010-11 school year. Also, the school is just a few students away from making AYP, according to district estimates. They will not be placed on the Needs Improvement list because they met AYP last year.

Indian Creek: After meeting AYP for two years in a row, the school has moved off the Needs Improvement list. Students who are currently exercising school choice may continue to do so but the system will no longer provide transportation for them.

Clements: The overall student population, as well as black, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students failed to meet performance standards in math and students with disabilities couldn't meet the English/language arts requirements, causing the school to fail AYP. They are not on Needs Improvement.

High Schools
Alcovy:
The school previously met AYP and is not on the Needs Improvement list. However, the students with disabilities subgroup failed to meet requirements in math and English/language arts, causing the school to fail.

Newton: This school must offer supplemental (tutoring) services for students because the school has not made AYP for the past two years. The students with disabilities subgroup failed to meet the math requirements and the graduation rate requirement. The school as a whole also failed to meet the graduation rate requirement. Students at Newton High made gains in language arts, science and social students in the 2010-11 school year.

Charter School: Even though Challenge Charter Academy is governed by a board of directions the Georgia Department of Education requires that their scores are included in the district's AYP report, according to the press release from the system. Students in both middle and high school grades failed to meet AYP. For middle school, the economically disadvantaged subgroup, as well as the student population as a whole, failed to meet requirements in math. For high school students, they failed to meet math requirements and graduation rate requirements. The school is not on the Needs Improvement list.

Because the system as a whole failed, they are required to develop a system improvement plan "inclusive of substantially increased expenditures in professional development."

According to Mathews, the school system implemented an "intense plan of staff development for instructional personnel" last year, and they are providing staff development "building the background knowledge of students through vocabulary development in the four core subjects in grades kindergarten through twelve... The district is also preparing teachers to leverage technology in classroom lessons, taking advantage of this student-oriented tool. Finally, each school is in the process of further establishing Professional Learning Communities which find teachers planning instruction and using common assessments to judge student progress and guide teacher adjustments in instruction."

Of 2,146 schools in the state, 790 (36.8 percent) did not meet AYP. Georgia has 180 school systems. Of that, just 26 met AYP. 

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