BOE appeals Georgiana’s AYP results

Published 7:14 pm Friday, August 6, 2010

Georgiana School’s failure to make AYP is being appealed with the State Department, and principal Joseph Dean believes they have a strong case.

“I feel there is a strong possibility that decision may be reversed in the coming days or weeks,” Dean said on Friday morning. “Of course, I wish we had initially made it, but due to discoveries made in recent days, I believe we have a good case.”

The “discoveries” made center around the former Butler County Magnet School’s failure to meet the standards concerning graduation rates set by AYP.

“This was the one thing I was certain we would meet. The requirement is 90 percent or a constant improvement from year to year, and we met that; we went from 82 percent to 84 percent,” Dean explained. “And yet, we still didn’t make it.”

The glitch, the principal says, occurred when R.L. Austin and Georgiana High School were joined to together to create the former Butler County Magnet School.

“There was a consolidation of the schools, rather than a reconfiguration. When they combined the school, R.L. Austin, having the larger number of students, was considered the primary school for setting the goals.”

There was just one problem, Dean said.

“Austin is an elementary school and they don’t have any graduates. So there also can’t be any improvement in the graduation rate.”

The principal said a redefinition for the State Department of the school’s situation was required.

“We’ve presented them with the facts of the case, and we’re letting them take another look at our situation,” he said.

Butler County Schools Superintendent Darren Douthitt said based on the data he had reviewed and the conversation he had with the State Department of Education, he was confident Georgiana School would be awarded 100 percent AYP for the 2009-2010 school year through the appeal process.

“I believe the evaluation will now be based on average daily attendance rather than on graduation rate, and there is no reason why the appeal should not be successful,” Douthitt said.

In terms of the entire county school system, school board member Joe Lisenby said he had had concerns over the past year due to the way in which No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and AYP are set up.

“Every time you do make it, the standards increase, and it’s much more difficult to do it again. It’s designed to help students strive to do better and better, which is good; but it’s also tough to achieve year after year,” Lisenby said.

“We’ve had some weak areas in the past, and they showed up once again. One of the largest contributors to not making AYP has been the Special Education portion. It’s a critical area, with teachers having to work with those children the hardest, and the children themselves having to work the hardest.”

Lisenby stressed there has been measurable overall improvement in the school system as a whole, “but every year, the bar is raised.”

He expressed particular concern over Greenville Middle School.

“We’ve really been struggling there over the years. And if you look at most schools that don’t make AYP, most of them are middle schools. It is a difficult, difficult group. No more contained classrooms. It’s a whole new atmosphere,” Lisenby said. “Whether it’s raging hormones or what have you, it’s difficult to get kids that age to focus and apply themselves. And that’s true no matter what school system you’re talking about. That’s why we are constantly trying to make appropriate changes to find the right formula for success there.”

With a new superintendent finally in place, permanent principals at ever school and interim superintendent Dean back at the helm of Georgiana School, Lisenby said he is hoping for a smoother school year for Butler County.

“Basically, we were without a superintendent for three-quarters of the year; we took Mr. Dean away from a school where he had lead, encouraged and directed so well before he was taken out to serve as interim . . . I think things have to be better for us this year,” Lisenby said. “We have to remember all our schools are making progress; we just didn’t meet these increased standards they set.”