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School district sets sights on AYP
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Forsyth County News

For the third year in a row, the Forsyth County school system fell one campus shy of having all 30 schools meet the national litmus test known as AYP.

As a system, the nearly 31,000-student Forsyth district also came up short, one of 142 in Georgia -- or a vast majority -- that did not make AYP this year.

AYP, or "adequate yearly progress," is the foundation for enforcing the federal No Child Left Behind act.

On the school level, it has been a different local school that came up short each year.

This year it was Forsyth Central High School, which did not meet requirements in the graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students, as well as annual measurable objective in math.

Figures released by the school system show that 64.5 percent of the school's 62 students met the standards. But that was just a few students short of the required 74.9 percent goal.

It was the first time Central has failed to make adequate progress. Failing to comply two consecutive years in the same subject area will land a school on the "needs improvement" list.

Last year, it was Coal Mountain Elementary that did not make adequate progress. In 2006, it was Chestatee Elementary. Both schools met AYP this year.

Superintendent Buster Evans said he was "so pleased at the progress Coal Mountain has made."

"It was the dedication of the teacher and school leadership that helped them realize such great gains with our special education students in just one year," Evans said.

The AYP process was designed to track statewide progress in all subgroups, in part based on standardized test scores.

Subgroups are not limited to ethnic groups, but include categories for the economically disadvantaged, disabled and English Language Learners. Other considerations making AYP include academic performance, attendance and graduation rates.

Rudy Hampton, principal at Central, said his staff realizes the challenge ahead in the coming school year, which starts Aug. 11.

"We are aware that we have work to do in regards to our economically disadvantaged subgroup and this is something that we take very seriously," he said in an e-mail.

"Next year, we will have an instructional focus time built into our schedule each week," he said. "This time will provide additional academic assistance to all of our subgroups as well as our entire student population."

Hampton added that this time period will "have a huge impact on the performance of all our students."

"I would also like to note that while we didn't make AYP, we did have huge gains in our overall graduation rate for this year, going from 77.8 percent in 2007 to 80.7 percent this year."

Officials said that making district-level AYP does not rest on all the system's schools meeting standards. In other words, no one school is at fault for the system not meeting adequate yearly progress.

The district as a whole is judged using different evaluations, which look for curricular problems.

Lissa Pijanowski, associate superintendent, said her concerns are in upper-level grades.

"All areas of concern reside at the high school level," said Pijanowski, in a statement.

"Recommendations of the High School Improvement Committee address additional support classes needed for student success and interventions for improving the graduation rate," she said.

"The 2008-09 school year will include an adjustment in our seven-period schedule to allow for weekly instructional focus time for advisement."

Pijanowski added that time will be allocated for academic support and acceleration.

"These research-based strategies will be implemented with a focus on meeting the needs of all our high school students."

As a system, students with disabilities and the economically disadvantaged didn't meet requirements for the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test.

Figures show 64.2 percent of students with disabilities (123 students) and 65.6 percent of economically disadvantaged students (195 students) met the standard, when the objective was 74.9 percent.

In addition, 80.5 percent of students with disabilities met standards for the English Language Arts portion of the graduation test, short of the 87.7 percent goal.

And the graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students (124 students) was 47.5 percent, when the objective was 70 percent, system figures show.

Statewide, 42 systems made AYP, according to figures from the state department of education.

About 69 percent of all schools made adequate progress, including 76 percent of elementary schools.

Sixty-five percent of middle schools and 48 percent of high schools statewide made AYP in 2008.