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3 schools implement flexible learning plans
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If approved Tuesday, three Newton County schools will have a new flexible learning plan in place to, hopefully, bring them off the priority and focus schools list - a new requirement for the 2012-13 school year.

Under the Title I provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, schools that are deemed "priority" are those Title I schools that are among the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools in the state "having demonstrated a lack of progress on the state-mandated assessments for all students and/or having a graduation rate less than 60 percent over two years."

In Newton County, Challenge Charter Academy falls on that list. Although CCA is an independent public school with a separate board and administer, it is funded by the Newton County Board of Education, and tests are lumped in with the other schools in the system.

"Focus" schools are Title I schools that are among the 10 percent in the state "that has the largest within-school gaps between the highest performing subgroup and the lowest performing subgroup or at the high school level, has the largest within-school gaps in gradation rates."
There are no high schools (although CCA does house middle and high school aged students) in the county that have been named "focus" schools; however two elementary schools - Live Oak and West Newton - have been designated as such.

Each of the three schools were required to develop a flexible learning plan that will offer students additional academic services outside of school hours in the subject where they are in need of improvement. At least 5 percent of the Title I monies allocated to those "focus" schools must be set aside to fund these additional academic services. Ten percent must be allocated for "priority" schools. Each school will have an individualized plan that targets the weaknesses of the students.

Live Oak Elementary
At Live Oak, $14,724.88 has been set aside. The largest amount allocated is materials ($64,000), followed by $6,000 for tutors, as well as additional money spent on other variables. The program will be school-wide and will be available to all 889 students currently enrolled there. Science is the subject that students have the most trouble with and the students with disabilities subgroup requires the most attention, according to information released by the school system. And the largest performance gap is between English language learners and students with disabilities According to numbers from the 2010-11 school year, 82 percent are eligible to receive free and reduced lunches. The total being spent at Live Oak is $91,342.28.

West Newton Elementary
West Newton had 685 students currently and, according to 2010-11 numbers, 79 percent are eligible for free and reduced lunches. There is also $14,724.88 set aside for students throughout the school, with $57,960 set aside for Dell desktop computers and $20,000 for teacher salaries. The school has a large disparity between the scores of the students with disabilities and white students' subgroups. Their general weakness is in math. The total being spent at West Newton is $97,296.

Challenge Charter Academy
Again, $14,724.88 has been set aside for the "priority" school that houses both middle and high school students. There are 100 students currently enrolled, and 2010-11 numbers show that at that time, 76 percent were eligible for free and reduced lunch. The biggest weakness for all of CCA's students is math. The largest expenditure for the school is $28,865.60 for outside instructors to teach both during and after school and $26,250 for a summer learning program. The total being spent is $52,115.60.