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Gainesville school board praises schools for progress
Final 2012 millage rate set at 7.39 mills
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Gainesville City Schools Board of Education members had high praise for several schools at Monday night's board meeting.

Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction for city schools, presented final Adequate Yearly Progress results. AYP is the way schools are shown to meet the federal No Child Left Behind qualifications.

"As a system, we're accountable for 106 subgroups," Moore said. "Of those 106 subgroups for academic performance, we met AYP for 100."

The subgroups include an "all students" group as well as individual ethnicities, English Language Learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged for grades three through 12 at every school in the system. Each subgroup is evaluated on its performance in math and reading — which in AYP combines reading and English-language arts — content areas on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test and the Georgia High School Graduation Test.

Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School improved in all 12 of its subgroups, New Holland Core Knowledge Academy in 12 of 14 and Gainesville High School in 13 of 14.

Gainesville Middle School also saw improvement in 11 of its 14 subgroups.

However, despite the increases, the AYP benchmarks for 2011 still have Gainesville Middle as a Needs Improvement III school for the upcoming year.

"When you look at AYP and the NCLB legislation, you're looking at something where arbitrary goals have been set ... to hit 100 percent in 2014," Moore said. "At Gainesville Middle, in the 14 subgroups where they showed gains in 11, that doesn't show up when you look at AYP."

Graduation test scores may change as well when the state officially releases AYP, Moore said.

"We received an email a couple days ago. (The state) found a flaw on their end," he said. "They are working on their problem and as soon as they have it corrected, that data will be live."

Schools are still waiting for graduation rates to be released by the state. As it is now, Gainesville High's graduation rate is at 84.9 percent. That's up significantly from 2010 but still sits below the 85 percent AYP requirement. Moore expects that to go up.

The board also discussed transitioning Gainesville High School and Gainesville Middle School to fit a new state education model.

In accordance with Georgia House Bill 400 and House Bill 186, middle and high schools around the state will be focusing on making students ready for colleges and careers at earlier ages.

The changes require students to meet benchmarks on career exploration and planning as well as post-secondary options, be it college, technical school, apprenticeships, the military or entering the workforce. Pending federal approval, these changes could change how Georgia schools are looked at for AYP.

Gainesville City Schools are already working to transition schools to meet the new regulations, according to information presented at the board meeting Monday.

"We have been planning with our high school on how to keep a balance in arts, academics and career pathways," Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. "Our most urgent area is with middle school parents, in that Georgia will have a new high school diploma by the time they get there."

Dyer said the system plans to approach the changes with flexible scheduling and ways for students to get core credit — such as English and math — in courses from career, technical or agricultural education classes.

"It's important that our kids understand the importance of that academic piece and gaining skills as they go through high school, so we are providing and creating a world-class workforce for Georgia and they're graduating with the skills to compete in the 21st century," LaCrisia Larkin, career, technical and agricultural education director and Gainesville High assistant principal, told board members.

The last report on the board's agenda was the final adoption of the millage rate, which is set at 7.39 mills for fiscal year 2012. This is 0.3 mills less than the 2011 rate.

One mill equals $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value, so the reduction in millage will save taxpayers about $30 on a $100,000 house.

Millage is assessed at 100 percent in the city.

The operations and maintenance millage is 7.39 and the school debt millage is zero, as the board paid off its debt in January.