Nearly 37 percent of Georgia schools, including three in Forsyth County, failed to make adequate yearly progress, according to state figures released last week.
And for the first time in several years, the county’s school system also failed to meet AYP, or the annual performance goals set in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Forsyth shares the distinction with 152 of the state’s 183 systems that also failed to meet the goals, which officials attributed largely to rising standards this year.
The local schools cited include Forsyth Central High School, iAchieve Virtual Academy and Forsyth Academy.
The higher performance bar changed as schools across the country must meet the federal deadline of 100 percent of students being proficient by 2014.
This year, schools and systems needed to meet an 85 percent graduation rate, along with higher standards for students passing English/Language Arts and Math portions of the CRCT and graduation tests.
Lissa Pijanowski, Forsyth County Schools’ associate superintendent, said the "absolute bars that the kids had to meet went up drastically this year."
"That’s something that’s of note, because only 63 percent of schools in the whole state that have made AYP and it’s because of the increase," she said. "But our kids are still doing phenomenally well, even with the higher measures.
"We actually made all of our academic performance goals, we made our attendance goals and we have the highest graduation rate we’ve ever had — over 90 percent."
The one area that caused the county to not make the mark was the test results for students with disabilities in 11th grade English.
The system met its goal, just not by enough, meaning it had to show progress in another area — graduation rate for students with disabilities.
While the rate rose by 7.1 percent, to a 63.7 percent graduation rate, that wasn’t the 10 percent improvement required.
Because this is the first year since 2008 the system hasn’t made AYP, there are no consequences.
However, if its students with disabilities fail to meet standards again next year, the system will be forced to take action.
Forsyth County Superintendent Buster Evans said local officials "welcome accountability and believe that we can always achieve higher levels of student learning."
"We are committed to meeting the needs of all of our students and never feel as though we have arrived," he said.
For both Forsyth Academy and iAchieve, the problem had nothing to do with student performance.
In both cases, it came down to the number of students who actually took the test.
To make AYP, 95 percent of students enrolled in the school must take the test.
Both schools have very few students, Pijanowski said, so "ultimately every student needs to take the test."
At each school, fewer than 20 students needed to take the test.
Both fell short by two students, she said, though all the students who took the test passed it.
"We’ve already been on the phone with them to make sure that if they did not test, they’ve taken advantage of the retest opportunities this summer or … the next school year," she said. "Ultimately, it’s about them passing the test."
Forsyth Central High School faced a different problem.
It was the second year in a row the high school failed to make AYP due to graduation test results in English/language arts among its Hispanic population.
At 19 percent of the student body, the Hispanic population at Central is the highest of the system’s five traditional high schools.
wPijanowski said more than 78 percent of students met the standard this year, falling short of AYP by 13.
The school also didn’t make AYP for economically disadvantaged students who did not meet the standard on the English portion of the graduation test.
Making improvements in that subgroup will be a priority for next year, she said.
But because the school failed to meet standards in the Hispanic subgroup for two years in a row, the system must take action.
"We’re going to offer the students … tutoring, free of charge," Pijanowski said. "Even though it’s a consequence, it will ultimately be a benefit to the students of Central High School and that’s what the district chose to do because we think it’s the right thing to do for students."
The system will be sending information home to Central students and parents and will hold a fair so they can meet the vendors that offer tutoring.
Students who want tutoring help must ask for it.
"I hope that we have a lot of kids taking advantage of it," Pijanowski said.