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Hall schools get an 'A' for adequate progress
31 of 34 schools make AYP
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Hear Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County schools, describe the reasons Hall County schools performed so well this past school year.

The state Department of Education certified summer school retest results that declare 31 out of 34 Hall County schools made Adequate Yearly Progress for the 2007-2008 school year.

Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County schools, said the jump from 67 percent of county schools making AYP in 2006 to 91 percent of schools making AYP in 2008 is a testament to the hard work of teachers and students.

"We have great teachers, we have great students and we have great leadership at the school level. And they’re focusing on that two-prong approach that we talk about all the time and that is basic competency, which AYP is a measure of, as well as rigor," Schofield said. "I couldn’t be more proud of our students, No. 1, and No. 2 our faculty and staff, because they really have made this a concerted effort to get this AYP monkey off their back."

A highlight of the certification is that East Hall Middle School made AYP, a measure of progress under the federal No Child Left Behind mandate, for the first time ever.

"We are rejoicing," said Gerald Boyd, school improvement specialist for Hall County schools.

Myers Elementary, Lyman Hall Elementary and Chestatee Middle schools shed their "Needs Improvement" label this year, meaning they made AYP two years in a row following two years in which they did not make AYP, which relegated them to the "Needs Improvement" category.

Lanier Elementary, Spout Springs Elementary, Sugar Hill Elementary and White Sulphur Elementary were all schools that did not make AYP in the initial spring Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, but did with summer retests.

Chestnut Mountain Elementary, Flowery Branch Elementary and South Hall Middle were the only county schools that did not make AYP this past school year.

Merrianne Dyer, superintendent of Gainesville schools, said the district expects its final AYP results today.

Schofield said Chestnut Mountain and Flowery Branch elementaries did not meet AYP this year for the first time ever. At both schools, only two special education students prevented the schools from meeting AYP, Schofield said. And at South Hall Middle, a passing CRCT score of fewer than 20 students stood between the school making AYP and not making it. This is the fifth year South Hall Middle has not met AYP.

Adequate Yearly Progress certifications take into account student attendance in school and on test days, as well as student performance on state tests and graduation rates for high schools.

Schofield said the change in the number of schools meeting AYP will mean little change for the district’s schools as far as implementation of No Child Left Behind policies, such as offering after-school tutoring opportunities for students at Needs Improvement schools.

There is no major effect on the budget as a result of the new certification, he said.

At South Hall Middle, Schofield said teachers will continue to put a lot of work into assessing students and providing additional time for those having difficulty with material as school leaders closely monitor students’ progress.

Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for Hall County schools, said she applauds state school Superintendent Kathy Cox’s decision to include summer retest scores in the calculation of AYP for the first time this year.

"It really helped us because so many of our kids were close to passing," Barron said.

Barron said the decision was a good move because with many students failing the social studies and math portions of the CRCT, many third-, fifth- and eighth-graders were required to attend summer school to retake and pass the test before being eligible for promotion to the next grade level. Including their scores in calculating AYP after the three weeks of summer school shows these students are capable; they just needed more instruction time, she said.

While Schofield said he’s extremely proud of the district’s dedication to meeting AYP, he remains displeased with the implementation of No Child Left Behind, maintaining there are better ways to measure the effectiveness of schools.

"We don’t weep and gnash our teeth when we miss (AYP) by a student or two, and we’re not going to sit and spend a lot of time beating our chests when we make it by a student or two," he said. "... I find it fascinating that with a district of 26,000 kids, 24 more children passing those tests and 100 percent of our schools would have made AYP."