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County fails AYP as a district
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The Georgia Department of Education released the 2007-2008 Adequate Yearly Progress report Friday and, for the first time, the Newton County School System did not meet AYP.

Nine out of the county's 19 schools, including all four middle schools and two out of the three high schools did not meet AYP.

"We are disappointed that for the first time, the system did not make adequate yearly progress in the preliminary data release," said NCSS Superintendent Steve Whatley in a press release. "A goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is that all students will meet the standards of performance in reading/language arts and mathematics."

Oak Hill and Porterdale elementary schools, which both failed to meet AYP in 2007, met AYP this year. By meeting AYP, Oak Hill avoided landing on the needs improvement list. Porterdale met AYP, but remains on the needs improvement list based on criteria that says a school must make AYP for two consecutive years before it can be removed from the list.

Conversely, both Newton and Alcovy high schools did not meet AYP for the first time since No Child Left Behind's authorization in 2001.

 Both schools will have the opportunity to make AYP next year and avoid making the needs improvement list.

The same can be said for the county overall. As this is the first year the school district has not met AYP, the district will not be on the needs improvement list going into the 2008-09 school year, which starts Friday.

Several schools did meet AYP and in many cases, continued a string of successes. East Newton, Fairview, Ficquett, Heard-Mixon, Mansfield and West Newton elementary schools all made AYP for the sixth consecutive year. Eastside High made AYP for the fifth consecutive year and Rocky Plains Elementary made it for the third time in as many years. The same schools all were honored as "distinguished" schools, having made AYP for more than two consecutive years.

Overall, three schools have been designated on the needs improvement list. Middle Ridge made AYP last year and could have come off needs improvement had the school made AYP for 2007-08.

Porterdale did not make AYP in 2006 or 2007 but did make it this year. If the school can duplicate its performance in 2008-09, the school will be removed from the needs improvement category.

Clements Middle School has struggled to make AYP. The school failed AYP for the sixth consecutive year and has been added to the State Directed Status category.

To make AYP, each school must meet three criteria. Test participation, academic performance and second indicator-- attendance in the elementary and middle schools or graduation rates in high schools. If a school fails to meet the criteria in any of the three areas, the school does not meet AYP.

In every case, the schools that failed to meet AYP had one or more subgroups fail to meet various criteria. As a result, the weight of the subgroups that did not meet standards, when factored in, was enough to affect AYP.

For example, Alcovy made AYP in eight out of nine categories, but black students, as a subgroup, did not make standards on the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test. Consequently, the school failed to meet the academic criteria of AYP even though the school met AYP in the other eight categories according to tenets of NCLB.

In the case of Cousins, Indian Creek and Veterans middle schools, the students with disabilities or SWD subgroup did not meet standards on the reading and math portions of the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), which all students in first through eighth grades take in the spring. While each school did make AYP in 2006-07, the three schools now must make AYP next year to avoid the needs improvement list.

This is the first year the county had tested while aligned with the new Georgia Performance Standards and county officials expected the results in math to be slightly lower than in years past as a result of the more rigorous curriculum. Still, the district office knows the performances must improve.

"When analyzing the data for all our subgroups, we need to improve the performance of our students with disabilities in reading and mathematics achievement on the CRCT's," Whatley said. "Additionally, mathematics performance as taught through the new Georgia Performance Standards must improve for all other subgroups."

Neighboring Walton and Henry counties also did not meet AYP as a district while Rockdale County did. Three Rockdale County schools failed to meet AYP for the 2007-08 school year.