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Gainesville High close to AYP target
Graduation rate one-tenth of a point below goal
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In order to make Adequate Yearly Progress this year, high schools in Georgia must have a graduation rate of 85 percent.

As of Tuesday, Gainesville High School's graduation rate was 84.9 percent - one-tenth of a point from meeting the target.

"This is so close it hurts," Beth McElwee, Gainesville High's academic coordinator, wrote in an email to Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer.

Principal Chris Mance said between 20 and 25 students were involved in Georgia High School Graduation Test re-testing over the summer. He said the school only needs one student to pass the re-test for the school to meet AYP by the time final results are released in September.

AYP results are based on several factors, including performance on graduation tests, and apply only for students who complete the full academic year at one school.

High schools faced extra challenges this year as the target graduation rate jumped to 85 percent from 80 percent. Passing scores throw another loop in the process as they differ between the state and AYP.

"Five-hundred is a passing score on the graduation test (in Georgia)," Dyer said. "But ... you have to make a 516 to be considered passing for AYP."

What makes matters even more difficult is many students who move can be considered dropouts when it comes to the graduation rate. Schools are held accountable for everyone who enters in the ninth grade.

"Everybody who ends up with you, everybody who started in the ninth grade together, they have to end up somewhere.

You have to verify where they finished," Dyer said. "We had 68 kids in the high school go back to Mexico or Honduras or whatever with all this immigration stuff, and we had to find them. It's been hard."

Students who are not found or who do not score a 500 are considered dropouts, even if they completed school and walked across the stage at graduation.

Through resources including Facebook, one such former Gainesville High student was found in Mississippi, where the student and family moved in December. At the time he moved, the student had not passed one portion of the graduation test.

"They all have to graduate or they're considered a dropout," Mance said. "Now the charge is to make sure this student gets enrolled in a school there and finishes his education."

Dyer said she admires the students who have graduated in the state's eyes with their 500 score but come back anyway in an effort to help their school.

In the nine years Mance has been at Gainesville High, he said only one time does he remember the school not making AYP.

"It's getting difficult ... but we feel like we have a pretty good plan," he said.

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