Lee County AYP streak ends

ALBANY, Ga. -- For the first time in seven years, Lee County High School did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress, according to the official statewide first-round results released by the Georgia Department of Education Monday afternoon.

In 2009, Lee County School System was one of only two school systems in the state with at least five schools in its district to have its entire school system make AYP for six straight years.

However, the second-round scores are the basis for the annual report card of how schools and school systems are improving to reach the federal mandate as part of the federal government's 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.

The second round is scheduled to be released at the end of September and will include retests for both Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and Georgia High School Graduation Test, error corrections, appeals and summer graduates.

Grades third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and 11th are the grades counted for AYP.

Although Lee County's high school and its Ninth Grade Campus didn't make AYP, the district's other five schools earned "Distinguished" status. Those schools were Kinchafoonee and Lee County primary schools, Lee County and Twin Oaks elementary schools and Lee County Middle.

"We're disappointed," said Lee County Superintendent Lawrence Walters, who noted the district's high school graduation rate was "73 (percent) something." "But, we're analyzing it and maybe it'll get better (in the second round). We are proud of those schools that received that (Distinguished) designation."

Lee County Curriculum Director Gail Melvin said the school system's staff and students will continue to work hard.

"That's all you can ask and that's what we'll keep doing," she said after Monday night's school board meeting.

The Dougherty County School System had 15 its 26 schools meet AYP after the first-round. In 2009, Dougherty had 20 schools meet AYP after the preliminary round. In 2008, only 14 DCSS schools met AYP after the first round.

"Math and graduation rates were the most critical factors of the schools that didn't make it," Dougherty County Public Information Director R.D. Harter said of the 2010 results.

The 15 Dougherty County schools that made AYP after the first-round were elementary schools Alice Coachman, International Studies Charter, Lake Park, Lamar Reese, Lincoln, Live Oak, Magnolia, Northside, Radium Springs, Sherwood and Sylvester Road. Dougherty, Merry Acres and Robert Cross were the middle schools that made it and Westover Comprehensive was the lone high school to meet AYP.

It was the 11th consecutive year that Lamar Reese School of the Arts made AYP, one of 19 schools in the state to accomplish the feat.

Albany, Dougherty and Monroe high schools didn't meet AYP. Albany, Radium Springs and Southside middle schools also didn't achieve AYP. Elementary schools Jackson Heights, Martin Luther King Jr., Morningside, Turner and West Town did not make AYP either.

Harter said Friday that the Dougherty County School System expects that an additional four to seven schools will meet AYP after the second round is tabulated. Last year after the second round results were computed, Dougherty had 23 of its 26 schools meet AYP.

Harter also said Friday that Dougherty County School System officials believed strongly that fewer of its schools met AYP standards this year in the first round because of state test monitors brought in by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement after its 2009 erasure analysis audit. The audit found 14 DCSS schools with either wrong-to-right irregular erasure marks at the severe or moderate concern level.

"(The CRCT erasure analysis) caused harm to the validity to our testing process," Harter said.

Worth County Middle and Primary School did meet AYP standards, but the school system's high school and Sylvester Elementary did not. Worth County School System officials reported that the district topped the state average on its CRCT passing percentages in 13 areas, including all three sections for first and second graders.

Mitchell's Baconton Charter, its middle school, along with North Mitchell and South Mitchell elementary schools also made AYP. The county's high school didn't meet AYP.

Terrell's Cooper Primary, Carver Elementary and Terrell Middle all made AYP, but its high school did not. Carver Elementary and the middle school each came out of the "Needs Improvement" status after making AYP for two consecutive years.

Three factors are used to determine AYP status -- test participation, achieving benchmark test standards and attendance for elementary, and middle school students and graduation rate for high schools.

Metro Albany high schools' troubles with meeting the AYP standards followed a state trend in which only 33 percent met national standards. In 2009, Dougherty County had a graduation rate of 75.4 percent and the state requirement was 75 percent. This year, the state requirement was raised to 80 percent. The graduation rate will increase by 5 percent for the next four years until it reaches 100 percent in 2014.

After having 79 percent of schools throughout the state meet AYP in 2009, only 71 percent made it this year.

"We know there is a lot of hard work going on in our high schools, but we must provide more focused support for our students and teachers," State Superintendent of Schools Brad Bryant said. "I am committed to focusing on the needs of our high schools to ensure they are preparing students for the 21st century."

According to No Child Left Behind regulations, every school, school district and state is forced to sort AYP test results by the racial/ethnic category, disability, socioeconomic status and limited English proficiency. Students can be placed in multiple categories. The sorting helps determine strengths or weaknesses and makes it easier to hold systems accountable for closing achievement gaps.

Subgroups can be broken into as few as 40 students or 10 percent of the students enrolled in Adequate Yearly Progress grades, whichever is greater with many as 75.

"One kid can keep you from making AYP," DCSS Test Coordinator Renee Bridges said Friday.

Herald Librarian Mary Braswell contributed to this report.