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Higher standards, rigorous tests make AYP harder
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Bryan County’s school district almost met 100 percent of the 2008 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements, with eight out of nine schools meeting this year’s standards.

Right now, Bryan County Middle School hasn’t achieved AYP status. But the final AYP report won’t be determined until the fall, after summer graduates and CRCT summer retest results have been factored in, said Bryan County schools Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer.

So far, one thing is certain – AYP standards were a whole lot tougher this year.

About 69 percent of Georgia schools made AYP, down from more than 82 percent in 2007. The results showed 142 districts in the state had difficulty meeting the new, more rigorous standards for achieving AYP, compared to 42 districts that did meet requirements.

The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) said while the AYP results are "discouraging," the higher standards are important.

"It is clear that this year’s AYP outcomes correlate with the state’s implementation of the Georgia Performance Standards – a more rigorous curriculum that, given adequate time, will strengthen our students’ academic performance and potential," said Susan Walker, policy and research director for the GPEE.

During the 07-08 school year, students were taught a tougher curriculum to prepare for the more rigorous 2008 CRCT exams. On top of that, the annual measurable objective also increased, meaning more students had to pass the standardized tests in order to meet AYP requirements.

In Bryan County, the district’s nine schools met nearly all the requirements for AYP. All nine successfully had the 95 percent test participation requirement and passed the requirements for a second indicator – which can either be attendance or graduation rates.

Bryan County Middle School is currently falling short in just one area – the academic performance requirement, under the annual measurable objective.

But summer retest results for the CRCT exams will be factored into the current AYP report and could change that. If there are enough summer graduates and enough students pass the retests, it could ultimately change a school’s AYP standing in a positive way, according to Georgia Department of Education Director of Communications Dana Tofig.

"It will likely be September before summer CRCTs and summer GHSGTs are included in the mix," said local Associate Superintendent John Oliver. "So, the status of BCMS will remain as it is at least until then."

But for a school to come out of Needs Improvement status, it would have had to achieve AYP status last year and be close enough this year to make AYP after retests are considered, Tofig pointed out.

There are 340 schools in Georgia that are on the Needs Improvement list, including BCMS. Needs Improvement schools must offer options such as tutoring or school choice and may need to take specific action to improve student performance. Tofig added that if a school is on the NI list right now, they will have to offer those options for the upcoming school year, even if the summer results improve their AYP standing.

According to the 2008 AYP results, BCMS is in Needs Improvement year five and must offer both public school choice and supplemental services, such as tutoring, and is now under state directed status.

Despite less schools meeting AYP standards for 2008, the state department remains optimistic.

"Not only did all the academic measures of AYP go up this year, but we continued to raise the rigor of the work our students are doing, especially in mathematics," said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. "Even with the higher bar and the increased rigor, a majority of our schools met the mark."

Cox said the state’s preliminary graduation rate for 2008 is 74.4 percent, which is up more than two points from last year. Bryan County’s results jumped four percent, from 92 to 96 percent of juniors passing the graduation test.

The GPEE said the hard work may just be beginning for Georgia students.

"Our schools have a long way to go in order to meet the federal requirement of 100 percent proficiency by the year 2014," Walker said. "We are on the right path to educational improvements, but there is a tough road ahead."

The final AYP report will be published after summer graduates and retest results are added.

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