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Franklin County school systems make the grade

By Staff
Kim West, Franklin County Times
Franklin County school systems received positive reports cards Monday when the Alabama Department of Education released its Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) report for all public schools in the state.
"We're extremely excited about all our schools making AYP. It shows our teachers and administrators are doing a great job," said Gary Williams, assistant superintendent for Franklin County Schools.
The Franklin County and Russellville City school systems both achieved AYP status for 2007. All Franklin County schools – Belgreen, East Franklin, Phil Campbell, Red Bay, Tharptown and Vina – met 100 percent of thier AYP goals. Three city schools – Russellville Elementary, West Elementary and Russellville Middle School – also received AYP status.
"I'm extremely proud of our students and teachers – it tells me both are working hard. Academically, everything was AYP across the board, and at Russellville Elementary School, they scored all the way at the top criteria," said Dr. Wayne Ray, superintendent of Russellville City Schools.
For the first time in the report's four-year history, Russellville High School did not receive AYP status due to an apparent discrepancy in the number of students who received their diplomas last May.
"he high school lacked 2.5 percent, and that's the first time that's happened. George Harper, our testing coordinator, looked at the report and noticed the diploma number was small," said Ray, who was named the state's top superintendent by the School Superintendents of Alabama last fall. "The state only counted 113 diplomas, and we have until Aug. 17 to get it reviewed. If there are enough errors (in the AYP report), we'll request a review. We're going to do an analysis and look at the report because there could have been errors in accounting, or there could be no errors at all. It could be the diploma count rate, or it could be the dropout rate. We're really not going to know until we look at each student individually."
According to the state, AYP status for Alabama schools and school systems is determined by three factors: participation rate, annual objectives in reading and mathematics and additional academic indicators (AAI). All schools and school systems are required to reach 100 percent of their goals to receive AYP status.
"This state has the most rigorous graduation exam and also the toughest graduation requirement. To do that and be near the bottom of the rankings in terms of average expenditure per child – it's kind of a paradox," Ray said. "It's a balancing act to meet the needs of the students and the No Child Left Behind requirements. We have a 90 percent grad rate in Alabama … you can't just look at the goals, you have to look at the standards."
Depending on the student population, a school must meet a minimum of five goals and up to as many as 37 goals. The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools and school systems to meet annual goals in the academic achievement of the overall student population and by student groups, including economic background, race/ethnicity, limited English proficiency and special education.
According to Williams, only two county schools did not receive AYP status last year. Phil Campbell did not meet its goals in the categories of student dropout rate and special education test scores, and Red Bay did not meet its testing goal in special education in 2006.
"If you don't know about AYP, (the results) can be very misleading. It's a daily struggle to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, and I just want to congratulate all the teachers for their hard work," Williams said. "Making AYP frees up federal monies, which will allow us to put more money into professional development and maybe hire some teacher's aides, and also for things that come up during the year."
Statewide, 1,117 of Alabama's 1,358 schools achieved AYP status. The state also experienced a 70 percent drop in the number of high-poverty Title I schools that are identified as needing school improvement.
"By 2014, the goal is to have all the schools at 100 percent, and we're moving closer to it. It's a great sound bite – no one wants to leave a child behind," Ray said. "If you don't meet your AYP goals two years in a row, you go into school improvement, and the state department will come in and tell you what to do to reach AYP. No one wants to be under the state department."
According to state officials, only 23 percent of state schools met all their yearly progress goals in 2004. In 2007, the number has risen to 82 percent, with just 241 schools failing to meet 100 percent of their AYP goals and just nine schools meeting less than 60 percent.
To view AYP information for an individual school, visit the state's accountability reporting page at www.alsde.edu.

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