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Jefferson schools bask in persistent progress
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JEFFERSON — The Jefferson City school system belongs to an elite club in Georgia.

It is one of only 19 systems that has made Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act for at least four
consecutive years.

“It is a rather short list out of 180 school districts,” said Matt Cardoza, Georgia Department of Education communications coordinator. “So that is definitely something to be proud of.”

Other area systems that made that list include Commerce, Lumpkin County and Rabun County schools systems.

Neither the Hall County nor the Gainesville City schools systems made the list; however, the Gainesville system met AYP standards for the previous school year. Hall County missed the mark last year by one school.

While individual schools may meet AYP standards, all schools must make the grade in order for the system to meet AYP.

The systems that made the state AYP list range in size from one school on up to 18 schools.

“A huge key for us has been making sure that what’s being taught in the classroom aligns with the Georgia Performance Standards,” said John Jackson, superintendent of Jefferson schools. “It goes without saying that even if a teacher has a good year in the classroom, if what they are teaching isn’t lined up with the skills that are being tested on the CRCT or graduation test, then you are putting yourself in a bind.”

The Georgia Performance Standards are a curriculum guideline outlined by the state Department of Education. They provide a guideline for what topics and skills should be mastered in a given course.

The state board of education said it switched to the this model from the Quality Core Curriculum in 2002 because the QCC model “lacked depth” and “didn’t meet national standards.”

“We aren’t teaching the test, we’re just making sure that the curriculum covers the areas that students will be tested on,” Jackson said. “That is a big shift from what used to be the case, especially where high school is concerned. It hasn’t been that many years ago that individual departments wrote their own curriculum, but that isn’t the case any longer.”

AYP is measured by several factors including student attendance and performance on standardized exams like the Georgia High School Graduation Test and the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. The federal No Child Left Behind legislation requires schools and systems to meet AYP standards. Failure to do so earns escalating consequences, including being placed on the Needs Improvement list.

Where test scores of multiple grade levels are used to determine elementary and middle schools’ AYP standing, only graduation test scores of 11th-graders is used to decide high school AYP status. With that in mind, most high school administrators pay extra attention to the academic performance of those students.

“We utilize several methods and approaches that include support classes for mathematics and language arts in our regular schedule that allow the teachers to focus on specific skill gaps within our students as they approach the graduation test,” said Kevin Smith, Jefferson High School principal.

“We also do several special blitz tutoring sessions before and after school on select Saturdays leading up to the test to prepare the students.”

Smith also credits the school’s success with the use of computer tutorial programs and tracking and monitoring of at-risk students.

Overall, the number of individual schools meeting AYP standards dropped slightly from 79.9 percent in 2008 to 79.1 percent last school year. The number of schools on the Needs Improvement list rose from 14.3 percent in 2008 to 15.4 percent last year.

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