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Four Hall, Gainesville schools on states list needing help
Priority, Focus designations identify schools facing achievement gap
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School designations

• Priority schools are among the lowest five percent of Title I schools in terms of academic achievement.

• Focus schools are among the lowest 10 percent of Title I schools in terms of the achievement gap — both the size of the gap between the school’s bottom quartile of students and the state average, and the degree to which that gap is closing.

Area Priority schools

• Woods Mill Academy

Area Focus schools

• Centennial Arts Academy

• Lyman Hall Elementary

• White Sulphur Elementary

Two Hall County schools and two from Gainesville City were recently identified by the state department of education as either Priority or Focus schools — designations that track learning facilities exhibiting the need for additional support.

Woods Mill Academy of the Gainesville City School System fell into the Priority School category, which according to the Georgia Department of Education, means it is among the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools in terms of academic achievement.

Focus schools included Centennial Arts Academy — also a Gainesville City School — and Lyman Hall and White Sulphur elementary schools from the Hall County district. Focus Schools are among the lowest 10 percent of Title I Schools in terms of the achievement gap — both the size of the gap between the school’s lowest achieving students and the state average, and the degree to which that gap is closing.

“Identifying Priority and Focus schools allows us to offer targeted assistance where it is most needed,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “The GaDOE will work with the schools identified to ensure they have the resources they need to provide a quality education for their students.”

Following the state’s announcement, Gainesville City Schools sent a statement to media outlets: “The leadership of the district stands ready to support Centennial Arts Academy and Woods Mill Academy in the challenge of leading both schools through the process of achieving the exit criteria to be removed from the lists,” it read.

Kevin Bales, director of middle and secondary education with Hall County Schools, said the Focus designation is based on a three-year average of College and Career Ready Performance Index scores. Despite the fact that Lyman Hall and White Sulphur scored low three years ago, they’ve been included in the list due to scores from 2012 that brought the average down.

“This past year, both schools have made tremendous strides, but because they scored low on achievement gap closure, they were named Focus schools,” Bales said.

Added Bales: “We recognized a while back that progress needed to be made, and we’re very pleased with the progress they’ve made, and we’re confident these schools will work their way off this list.”

In the statement from Gainesville City Schools, Superintendent Wanda Creel said she is “confident that each of us — students, educators, parents and the community, working together — can reach greater heights of student learning and achievement. It is crucial to keep in mind that these particular designations are based on the results of one state standardized assessment and the comparisons between subgroups of students. There are so many aspects of our schools that are celebrated.”

Title I is a provision of the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed in 1965. It is a program created by the U.S. Department of Education to distribute funding to schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families.

As part of its Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver, the Georgia Department of Education identifies schools that exhibit the greatest need for additional support.

Under Georgia’s renewed ESEA waiver, the criteria for Priority and Focus Schools is aligned with the College and Career Ready Performance Index — a school improvement, accountability and communication platform that aims to promote college and career readiness for all Georgia public school students.

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