Two of Newton County's elementary schools have landed on the state's list of 156 "focus schools," under Georgia's new accountability laws.
Focus schools are identified one of two ways: Title 1 schools with large gaps between the highest achieving and lowest achieving subgroups within that school or those with a graduation rate of less then 60 percent over two years.
Just a step above the state's worst performing schools - Priority Schools, of which Challenge Charter Academy has been named - Focus Schools require certain actions from both the school and the district. Live Oak and West Newton elementary schools have been placed on the Focus list based on school-wide student achievement.
"This is not good news, but it is real news," said Superintendent Gary Mathews at Tuesday's board meeting.
One of the Focus Schools, Live Oak, met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) last year, yet still landed on the list. This is due to the state falling under the new accountability system that is based on a waiver received last month. That waiver frees Georgia's (and nine other state's) public schools from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act requirements.
Georgia no longer has to meet the deadline of the NCLB Act, which essentially said that students must be proficient in math and reading based on several different test scores by 2014. Those scores were collected from the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, the Georgia High School Graduation Tests and a school meeting AYP requirements. Schools were viewed both as a whole, and as subgroups.
Now that the NCLB Act is no longer required for the state, schools will have to show plans that prove they are preparing children for college and/or careers, reward the highest performing schools, focus on the lowest performing schools and set new targets for student achievement.