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Schools celebrate yearly progress
Hall, Gainesville systems, all county schools make AYP; city only 1 school shy
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All 34 schools in the Hall County system made Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind this year for the first time.

Summer retests at Chicopee Woods Elementary and about 20 more high school graduates this summer put the system and all of its schools in the AYP category, according to the state Department of Education’s final results released Thursday.

The Gainesville system also met AYP, as did all but one of its schools.

“Regardless of what you think of No Child Left Behind, it’s a historic day for us,” Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said. “It’s achieved by hard work. It’s having a small number of focused goals.”

Adequate Yearly Progress is measured by student achievement on state tests, graduation rates, test participation and attendance. Statewide, 86 percent of public schools met the federal benchmark this year.

The Hall County school system was one of 73 districts in the state where all schools made AYP, 25 more than last year.

Schofield commended the students and teachers of Hall County for their dedication. Some students at East Hall Middle School, which had never before achieved AYP, attended class on Saturdays during the last school year to help more special needs and English-language learners pass the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

Four Hall schools came off the dreaded Needs Improvement list, with only South Hall Middle still on the list although it met AYP this year. East Hall Middle, East Hall High, North Hall Middle and White Sulphur Elementary came of the Needs Improvement list.

Schools that do not meet AYP for two consecutive years in the same subject are placed on the Needs Improvement list and face escalating consequences, such as being required to offer after-school tutoring programs. A school must make AYP two years in a row to get off the list.

The state’s graduation rate rose to 78.9 percent, up 3 percentage points from last year, the state Department of Education reported. The state’s graduation rate has been climbing steadily since 2003, when it was 63.3 percent.

State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox said the 3-point jump means that nearly 4,500 more students graduated with a full diploma this year compared to last year.

About 20 Hall high school students who graduated this summer pushed the system’s graduation rate to 75 percent, Schofield said.

He said the system had about 1,270 graduates this year, a record number for the system. That’s almost 50 more graduates than last year, he said.

“I’m really pleased. I think this takes some of the pressure off,” Schofield said of all schools meeting AYP. “... I think this allows us to focus on teaching and learning and focus on 21st century skills.”

Gainesville school system’s final AYP determination remain unchanged despite hopes that a few state test rescores at Gainesville Middle School would help the middle school meet AYP. The system as a whole did meet AYP, however.

GMS was the only school in the city system that did not meet AYP this year. It marks the fourth consecutive year it has not met the standard.

Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the math scores of only one student with special needs kept the school from meeting the benchmark this year. She said she has concerns that although the state has an alternate assessment for students who are mildly handicapped, she questions whether there is an appropriate assessment for students with more severe handicaps.

“When it comes to medically fragile students, like students on feeding tubes, quadriplegics, severely handicapped students, we need to know we have an appropriate assessment (from the state),” Dyer said.

To move the middle school forward, she said teachers are addressing students’ math challenges.

“Math was our area, so we have our regular ed teachers and our special ed teachers working together on targeted math concepts that each individual student did not master,” Dyer said.

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