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SEHS makes the grade for AYP

POSTED: December 2, 2011 11:07 a.m.

After appealing to the Georgia Department of Education, South Effingham High School met Adequate Yearly Progress for 2011.

“We’re very excited about the change,” said SEHS Principal Dr. Mark Winters.

Over the summer, the school system learned that Effingham County High School, SEHS and South Effingham Middle School did not meet AYP standards, causing the system, like most Georgia districts, not to meet. SEHS fell short of the AYP benchmark, missing the 85 percent graduation rate bar by 1.5 percent.

After retesting some students in the Georgia High School Graduation Test and appealing a number of students who dropped out after less than a month in the school, SEHS’ graduation rate for the class of 2011 is now 85.6 percent. One such student was with the school for six days before dropping out.

“So all those students combined — the ones that we appealed and the ones that we asked to be removed from our calculations, along with those that passed the Georgia High School Graduation Test over the summer — caused us to have enough to make AYP,” said Winters.

Winters said that the school was “shocked” when they discovered that their graduation rate had pushed them from the AYP ledge.

“When we found out we didn’t make it,” he said, “we were very shocked because we had made such gains in graduation rate over the last three or four years at South High, to the point that we were doing extremely well. So then not to make it on graduation rate was so surprising, a little disheartening, and frustrating.”

He said that counselors, teachers, administrators and parents worked to find those gaps. They double-checked students who had left to see if they’d started school somewhere else; they appealed students who counted against SEHS but had only been in the system briefly; and they galvanized students to attend tutorials and retake sections of the GHSGT they failed.

“It was trying to find things to motivate kids,” Winters said. “Yes, they wanted their diploma, but we wanted them to work really hard during the tutorial so they would pass. I don’t know if any of those single things was the determining factor that put us over the top, but it was that effort of teachers, counselors, administrators, parents. There was certainly was a concentrated effort and that caused stress, but there was a lot of focus and energy placed on doing what needed to be done to get students to be successful.”

He said that since state and federal AYP benchmark requirements have been instated that it has bolstered productive teacher collaboration and encouraged the school to find creative ways to give students extra practice and review before major tests.

He said that he believes moving from the GHSGT to End of Course Tests and a graduation indicator will help. But Winters said he hopes that potential changes in Georgia standards from Race to the Top funds and an AYP waiver filed with the federal DOE will paint a more vivid picture of a schools impact, one that goes beyond test scores. If something doesn’t change, schools are expected to be accountable for graduating 90 percent of the class of 2012.

“I just hope that the new process will look at enough different things to see that there are some great things going on and not focus on one small aspect that may not be where some bureaucrat said it should be,” he said.

He said they learned a lot from the process and that they hope this year they won’t have to scramble to make up for a missed benchmark.

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