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Henry County Schools get 3 more AYP qualifiers

Stockbridge High School can be counted among the 42 public schools in Henry County to meet the state’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) benchmarks for the 2010-11 school year.

The Georgia Department of Education and Henry County Schools released the results early Wednesday, indicating Stockbridge, and two other schools in the district, met state academic requirements.

The news is a positive step toward improving student achievement at a school with its share of economic challenges and academic obstacles, according to Stockbridge High School Principal Eric Watson.

“Over the years, as Stockbridge High School’s demographics have changed, there has been a perception that the academics have suffered,” Watson said. “But our academic achievement is higher now than it was years ago.”

Watson said the high school’s graduation rate was 76 percent in 2004, compared to 85.2 percent this year. The graduation rate puts the school just above the state benchmark for making adequate yearly progress.

Pleasant Grove Elementary School and Woodland Middle School, also in Stockbridge, were named in the 2011 AYP Report as having made adequate yearly progress. The schools did not initially make AYP, when the state’s first report was released in July. The report is a component of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which incorporates age-appropriate academic benchmarks for students.

Pleasant Grove and Woodland earned their AYP passing status based on summer retest scores on the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, according to school officials.

Stockbridge made adequate yearly progress based upon its retest results for the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT) and the updated graduate count from the school’s summer graduation.

“The only thing that was holding us back was the graduation rate,” said Watson. “We were just six students short of making the graduation-rate requirement.”

Watson said there were a total of 14 Stockbridge seniors, who graduated following the initial AYP report. Initially, seven students did not pass a portion of the GHSGT, while seven others did not meet credit requirements for graduation.

“All of these kids did not pass by no more than two points,” he said. “It was disappointing to them, but they came to our summer tutoring program. Our teachers were diligent in helping them, and they all made it.”

Seven students from the 284-pupil senior class were able to take part in the district’s 2011 Summer Commencement Ceremonies on July 21. Watson explained that Stockbridge’s graduation rate rose to 85.2 percent for 2011, over the state benchmark of 85 percent.

The principal pointed out that student performance met requirements in all academic areas measured for AYP. He said the school has performed relatively well, despite the economic struggles of a student body in which 58 percent of students are classified as economically disadvantaged.

“Our goal is to close the achievement gaps among all our students,” said Watson. “Certainly, we want to improve in the amount of students that don’t just pass the test, but exceeds standards as well.

“We had major increases in our student achievement in English and math, and we’re pretty excited about that,” he continued. “We really feel like our student achievement is on the move up. Last year, only 66.5 percent of our students passed in math. We jumped to 79.6 percent to pass in math on the GHSGT this year.”

The school’s successes are the district’s successes, concluded Watson, acknowledging the three schools who made AYP this fall.

The addition of Stockbridge, Pleasant Grove, and Woodland bring the total to 42 schools making AYP in the district, said Henry County Schools Communications Specialist J.D. Hardin. The total represents 84 percent of Henry’s public schools, 24 percent more than made AYP in 2010.

Hardin said 25 of the district’s 29 elementary schools (86 percent), 11 of the district’s 11 middle schools (100 percent), and six of the district’s 10 high schools (60 percent) now have AYP passing status.

“We are proud of our students, teachers, and school communities for their hard work that has resulted in such noteworthy improvements, even as standards increase and statewide results decline,” said Henry County Schools Superintendent Ethan Hildreth. “This is a testament to their commitment to excellence and to ensuring success for students.”