For the second year in a row, neither of Liberty County’s high schools met the Adequate Yearly Progress standards, according to initial reports released Thursday.
“The thing that I want people to understand is that we take this very seriously,” Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said. “We’re going to take this down to the individual students and look at where that student is having issues.”
While each of Liberty County’s elementary and middle schools met the state-issued benchmarks, Bradwell Institute and Liberty County High School fell short of the ever-increasing requirements, Scherer said.
“People are going to be critical of us; they were last year,” Scherer said. “But the fact of the matter is that the schools are working very hard to improve.”
Statewide, only 30 percent of high schools made AYP this year, while 40.88 percent qualified last year, according to the Department of Education website. The percentage of all schools making AYP has decreased this year, with only 63.2 percent compared with 71 percent in 2010.
“The rate at which the academic bar and the graduation rate requirement increased this year prevented more schools from making AYP,” State School Superintendent John Barge said in a news release. “We knew we were up against the proverbial wall because this bar increases each year, and it appears that we have begun to hit it.”
Changes in standards include heightened requirements for all reading/language arts and math in both Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and Georgia High School Graduation Tests.
The high school graduation rate benchmark was raised from 80 percent to 85 percent, resulting in another influential change.
“If the bar would have been where it was two to three years ago, Bradwell would have made it with flying colors,” Scherer said.
Because of the results, LCHS now will be classified as a Needs Improvement Year One school and Bradwell will be classified as a Needs Improvement Year Four. The Needs Improvement designations do not classify the schools as failing, according to the Georgia Department of Education.
Schools designated as Needs Improvement are required to offer free after-school tutoring, and parents of students at these schools have the option of transferring their children to another school, the site said.
Under the designation, both schools will be required to write and implement improvement plans that address curriculum and performance, Scherer said. As part of the plan, administrators also will work with individual students to ensure that they are being provided the resources they need for improvement.
She also explained that understanding the evaluation methodology is crucial to understanding the results.
The year-to-year student achievement measure is one of the cornerstones of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The state evaluates schools using a complex formula that takes into account indicators such as test scores, graduation rates, attendance and more.
Rather than evaluating school performance according to an average of all students, the AYP formula breaks performance down by subgroups, and each group must meet subject and graduation requirements in order for a school to meet AYP requirements, Scherer said.
Subgroups featured in the reports include black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaskan, white, multiracial, economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities.
Economically disadvantaged students are those who qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch program, and about 65 percent of the students enrolled in the county fall into this designation, Scherer said.
Though both high schools met GHSGT participation and math scoring requirements, they had trouble with graduation rates and Georgia High School Graduation Test English language arts scores, the reports indicated.
To qualify for AYP, high schools must have a graduation rate of 85 percent. LCHS had a rate of 80.1 percent, while Bradwell’s was 76.3 percent.
At LCHS, none of the school’s groups met the requirements for the GHSGT English language arts, the report said. At Bradwell, the economically disadvantaged and Hispanic student groups did not perform at the required level on the English language arts tests, the report said.
“This is a new trend for us,” Scherer said. “Historically, Hispanic student performance has not been a big concern for us, but disadvantaged and students with disabilities have always been areas of focus.”