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School system misses AYP mark
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In the wake of increasing No Child Left Behind demands, initial reports indicate that the Effingham County school system did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress goals for 2011.

The entire state is feeling the pangs of NCLB as the 2014 goal of 100 percent of students proficient in mathematics and reading looms ahead. Georgia schools making AYP dropped from 77.4 percent in 2010 to 63.2 percent this year. And only 30 percent of all high schools in the state met AYP in 2011.

None of Effingham’s neighboring counties met AYP this year, including Chatham, Bryan, Bulloch, Screven and Liberty.

“To continue meeting the goals or standards that have consistently increased over the years has been a tremendous challenge,” Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff said in a statement, “particularly in light of the economic downturn that significantly impacted school funding and the availability of additional resources over the last several years.”

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Education estimated in March that 82 percent of U.S. schools would not meet NCLB standards this year.

Only three of Effingham’s 13 schools were off target: both Effingham County and South Effingham High Schools and South Effingham Middle School. These initial reports do not include summer retests and graduates. Adjustments may be made after the retest results are calculated, which are expected in September.

NCLB is a federal program that requires all public schools to meet or exceed AYP state standards in all assessed areas for all students and student subgroups. The nine subgroups evaluated are: American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, black, Hispanic, multi-racial, white, English language learner, students with disabilities (SWD), and economically disadvantaged students (based on free/reduced meals designation).

Results are reported by all students and by subgroups if sufficient numbers of students are identified in that subgroup within the school or system. If one subgroup fails to meet standards based on the state’s accountability framework, the entire school and system is indicated as failing to make AYP.

Georgia used the Criterion Referenced Competency Test and the Georgia High School Graduation Test to evaluate academic AYP status for schools in 2011. Second indicators are attendance for elementary and middle schools and graduation rate for high schools.

Pressure in Effingham

SEHS was 1.5 percent shy of meeting the AYP graduation rate bar of 85 percent, a second indicator for Georgia high schools making AYP. The school is expected to meet that goal after summer graduates are tallied. SEHS met standards in all other assessed categories.

SEHS Principal Mark Winters said he was surprised by these results because previously SEHS had exceeded the AYP graduation rate. The school’s only subgroups evaluated are white students and economically disadvantaged students, and both groups met or exceeded standards for both academic and graduation rate indicators.

“We had some kids who, actually second semester, they were on track to graduate, and we had three kids that just quit,” said Winters. “So we’re hoping with the retest over the summer that we’ll make it.”

Winters and Superintendent Randy Shearouse said that they looked at their dropout students and some of them were students who transferred from another system or state and quit after only a few weeks.

“We did file an appeal for some of those kids who were with us just a short period of time,” Winters said. “And that’s just maybe four or five kids. If they remove those, we’ll be OK, or if the summer retests are a success, we’ll be all right.”

SEMS met AYP in all categories except for academic performance of students with disabilities. In CRCT mathematics, only 64.2 percent of SWD met or exceeded, more than 10 percent shy of the 75.7 percent bar. On the English Language Arts portion of the CRCT, SEMS’ SWD were more than 12 percent below the 80 percent bar or meeting or exceeding standards.

However, the total student population had 95.4 percent in ELA and 92.2 percent in math meeting or exceeding. The school has previously met or exceeded standards in all areas and subgroups of AYP evaluation.

ECHS was hit hardest by AYP reports for the 2010-11 term. The school did not meet the AYP bar for its total students and the black and the economically disadvantaged subgroups for either of its indicators. ECHS was 5.2 percent below the 85 percent graduation rate bar.

“They’ve focused particularly hard on increasing their graduation rate and have shown increases for the last five years and are now approaching 85 percent,” Arnsdorff said.

On the GHSGT, ECHS fell 3.1 percent short of all students meeting the 90.8 percent bar.

System-wide, 91.4 percent of CRCT test-takers and 84.7percent of GHSGT test-takers met or exceeded standards in math and 95.6 percent of CRCT test-takers and 90.1 percent of GHSGT test-takers met or exceeded in reading/language arts.

In regards to the GHSGT, 17.3 percent of the economically disadvantaged subgroup did not meet and 47.4 percent of SWD and 22.1 percent of the black subgroups did not meet the standard of 90.8 percent meeting or exceeding in English Language Arts. In mathematics, 50 percent of the SWD subgroup did not meet standard.

Making AYP in 2012

Shearouse said that overall, he is very proud of the improvements all the Effingham schools have made of the last few years.
“I was pleasantly surprised with ECMS and the strides they made last school year,” said Shearouse, commending former ECMS Principal Robert Porterfield and instructional supervisor Cheryl Cale.

Last year, ECHS and ECMS were the only schools that did not meet AYP.

Shearouse said that he hopes the state Legislature will reconsider its performance standards to include college preparedness and success in career pathways.

But Arnsdorff pointed out that this year the GHSGT will be replaced with State End of Course Tests as an academic accountability indicator.

“And 85 percent graduation rate is tough for anyone,” Shearouse said. “… Our high schools are having a tough time.”

Shearouse praised the high schools for the tremendous efforts toward graduating students. He attributed the achievements to changes that teachers have made through professional development and credit recovery programs.

Next year, the graduation rate platform will rise to 90 percent in order for the schools to meet AYP. Winters said that being held accountable for graduating 90 percent of a senior class is “scary.”

“We are reaching a point,” continued Arnsdorff, “where all schools will begin to have difficulty meeting these higher goals at either the subgroup or all students group level.

“I think anyone would agree that in real life you cannot expect to have 100 percent of a population meeting each goal annually.

“However, we will continue to focus on closing achievement gaps where present and to more closely focus on our curriculum standards to ensure that each child is given the best instructional program possible.”