Clarification: Newton County Theme School at Ficquett was originally reported as a High Progress School. The Newton County School System has since said that the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett was named as a High Progress School in error.
Several administrators responded to recently being named as Reward Schools by the Georgia Department of Education's new four-part list created as a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Alcovy and Newton high schools, Heard-Mixon and Porterdale elementary schools were all named High Progress Schools by the Georgia DOE on Wednesday.
High Progress Schools, a subcategory under Reward Schools, are Title I schools that are among the top 10 percent of schools in the state that made the most progress in improving the "all students" group over three years on the statewide assessments.
The state named Reward Schools in two categories including High Progress Schools and Highest-Performing Schools, which are Title I schools among the top 5 percent of Title I schools in the state that had the highest absolute performance over three years for the "all students" group on the statewide assessments.
A Highest-Performing School must have made Adequate Yearly Progress for the "all students" group and all of its subgroups in 2011. Other categories under the state's waiver included Priority, Focus and Alert schools.
Matt Cardoza, director of communications for the Georgia DOE, said the state determined which schools were High Progress Schools by looking at the improvement of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test scores for elementary and middle schools over the last three years and for high schools the state looked at end of course test and graduation rates.
"It's really just data. You are looking at data to find out exactly how each of these schools performed over that time - three years worth of data," Cardoza said.
Newton High School principal Craig Lockhart said over the past three years, Newton High School has shown continued student achievement.
"First, we had to establish an environment in which teaching and learning could take place. Secondly, I had to identify the people who could make the right work happen and then empower them to do the work. Thirdly, we have to constantly monitor each and every child's progress closely in order to help them improve individually. The process is never-ending," Lockhart said.
"We have set high expectations for ourselves and our students. We are doing well because we expect to do well. The battle is far from over and we shall keep pushing ourselves forward," he said.
Alcovy High School principal LaQuanda Carpenter said being that AHS was awarded as a High Progress School based off of data from 2008 to 2011, improvements at the school began with former AHS principal Dave Easterday.
"He began the process of improvement. As I became the principal of AHS in July 2009, I have tried to continue the focus of strategic school improvement," Carpenter said.
"Our instructional staff has tirelessly focused on ensuring that we are building relationships with every single student, understanding the instructional need that is attached to every single student and monitoring our progress along the way. AHS is full of a very caring and devoted staff and as the principal, I do believe that every single teacher truly cares about our school and our community," she said.
Porterdale Elementary School principal Lizzela Dodson said her school has been able to close the achievement gaps across various subgroups in the school by implementing various instructional strategies and programs.
She said the school implemented extra help for students in math before school, extra tutorials in reading, after school programs, mentoring programs and workshops with parents to help them at home.
Newton County Superintendent Gary Mathews said he believed the efforts at improving student achievement through very focused professional development at the district-level combined with school-based professional learning communities is paying off.
"Based on last year's results alone, the system as a whole demonstrated improvement on Georgia assessments at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Additionally, the system as a whole showed improvement on both college admission tests, the ACT and SAT. And while certain areas such as math are not yet where they need to be, I like the upward trajectory we're now seeing over a multi-year period," Mathews said.