By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Bulloch schools make AYP
Langston Chapel Middle off Needs Improvement list
LCMS Lead photo Web
Sixth graders Toni Ellis, left and Jazzy Kelly listen in the Earth Science class of Julie Akins Tuesday at Langston Chapel Middle School. The school is celebrating being removed from the state's "Needs Improvement" list of schools. - photo by JAMES HEALY/staff
    It's good news for the Bulloch County school system. According to recent reports, for the first time in three years, all 15 Bulloch County Schools achieved AYP — Adequate Yearly Progress, the formula states use to determine if their schools are meeting academic expectations under the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
    And, Langston Chapel Middle School showed results of hard work and focused leaders by coming off the state's "Needs Improvement" list. Mill Creek Elementary School added to the county's coup by gaining notice for maintaining AYP for 10 straight years.
    It's "absolutely incredible," said Bulloch County School Superintendent Dr. Lewis Holloway.
    Considering the bar is raised by 5 percent each year for schools to make AYP standards, it shows the intensity of the hard work teachers, administrators, students and parents have done, he said. The annual increase in expectation "makes it increasingly difficult to make AYP," he said.
    The Georgia Department of Education determines AYP by using student performance data from the CRCT for elementary and middle schools and the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) for high schools.
    The NCLB goal is to have 100 percent of U.S. students proficient in reading and math by 2014.  As a result, states set AYP target goals and raise them nearly every year as they move toward the goal.
    “Raising the bar annually makes AYP a challenge, but our system exceeded the state's goals on the math and language arts sections of these tests” Holloway said.
    However, he feels raising the bar each year is unrealistic, and if things continue the way they are, there will be some really good schools eventually not making AYP. Holloway said he feels the laws should be changed to more realistic expectations.
    Bulloch County schools showed remarkable improvements across the board, as supported by final data released in October by the Georgia Department of Education regarding several "notable achievements."
     In addition to all 15 schools achieving AYP, Mill Creek did so for its tenth straight year.  Langston Chapel Middle School's being removed from the “Needs Improvement” list was a major accomplishment, and having on-time graduation rates rise to 81.8 percent from a low of 52 percent seven years ago is a significant accomplishment.
    “This is a tremendous feat and a credit to our faculty when you consider that our system has 144 different academic indicators that must be met in order to make AYP,” Holloway said.
    Having several course recovery options is what made this possible, he said. Adding two extra periods - "O" period before school and "5" period after school - helped tremendously in offering students options to make up courses. That, added to several online courses offered and the option to take summer classes at the Performance Learning Center, helped tremendously, he said.
    And, the four-period block scheduling allows students to earn up to 32 credits, when only 24 are needed for graduation, he said.
    He attributed the major force behind the outstanding increase in graduation rates to "our emphasis in course recovery."
    Bulloch County is in the state's top 28 percent, the number of school districts having achieved the distinction of having both their school district and all their schools make AYP.
    Only 20 schools in the state have made AYP for 10 consecutive years, making Mill Creek's (MCES) feat remarkable. “As a former MCES teacher and now its principal, I can say that there has always been a sense of high expectations ever since we opened our doors in 1999,” said MCES Principal Patrick Hill.  “Previous principals Sheryl Jones and Trey Robertson are owed a great deal of credit for fostering those expectations and helping students and faculty be successful,” Hill said.  
    Just behind MCES are other district elementary schools aiming for the same honor:  Mattie Lively and Stilson elementary schools have made AYP for eight straight years; Brooklet, Julia P. Bryant, Nevils and Sallie Zetterower have made AYP for seven straight years; and Portal Elementary has made AYP for six straight years.
     Southeast Bulloch Middle and William James Middle have made AYP for seven straight years.  Mill Creek and each of these schools are also Title I schools that received state designation as “Title I Distinguished Schools,” and will receive federal monetary awards ranging from $712 to $1,068.  Bulloch County has 13 Title I schools.

 Langston Chapel Elementary
    One of the most proud Bulloch County elementary school principals has to be Langston Chapel Elementary School Principal Elizabeth Williams, whose school pulled out of the "Needs Improvement" category by sheer hard work and determining reasons why the school was in that category in the first place.
    Williams said a high percentage of students with disabilities, and students having difficulties in mathematics, was the reason LCMS was lagging behind.
    "Through data analysis to identify the trends, "school officials learned how to address the problem through teaching strategies and targeting weak areas such as "number sense and operations," she said.
    The Fast Forward reading program helped a great deal as well, since over 50 percent of students were reading below grade level. Reading problems affect math scores, too, when a student has difficulty reading math problems, she said.
    "We're changing the way we address the needs of the children," she said. By getting to know the students socially as well as academically, teachers learn which students need which kind of approach, she said.
    How does it feel to be off the "Needs Improvement" list? "That is such a good feeling!" Williams said. "It took quite a while."
    The challenge is not ended, however. A school can miss only one performance target in one subgroup and not make AYP. “We're on a journey,” she said “I have a vision for our school to overcome its negative public perception and to achieve national recognition for our efforts."
    Making positive contact with parents through calls and web site notifications, as well as explaining AYP and why the school was on the "Needs Improvement" list has helped the negative image, she said.  Continued work with supportive teachers and staff will help Langston Chapel Elementary become "the epitome of an excellent middle school," she said.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter