Fewer than half of Richmond County's schools - 21 of 55 - met Adequate Yearly Progress this year, according to preliminary results released Monday by the Georgia Department of Education.
The figure - which will be finalized in the fall to include summer retest scores, summer graduates and appeals - was 12 fewer than last summer's preliminary report and 21 fewer than the county's final 2009 report, which was received in October.
"It is the goal of the Richmond County School System to have all schools meet AYP," Interim Superintendent Dr. James Whitson said in a release. "However, the 8.1 percentage point increase in the math indicator proved to be a challenge for our elementary and middle schools. Six of the nine middle schools missed AYP only in math. In addition, all but one elementary school missed AYP only in math."
By comparison, Monday's release showed 28 of Columbia County's 30 schools meeting this year's annual measure of school performance under the No Child Left Behind legislation. Only Grovetown and Harlem high schools did not meet AYP. Harlem was the county's only school labeled Needs Improvement - a status it was first given in 2009.
Richmond County showed gains in its graduation rate, increasing from 70.4 percent two school years ago to 76.2 percent this past school year. Graduation rates increased at all of the county's high schools - with the exception of magnets, which held steady at 100 percent.
Columbia County's graduation rate increased only slightly, from 83 percent in 2009 to 83.3 percent this year.
Columbia County Assistant Superintendent Jeff Carney said he was proud of his system's overall results but noted that meeting AYP, especially for high schools, will only get harder as requirements in areas such as math and English increase. Ultimately, the federal goal is 100 percent proficiency by 2014.
Thirteen of the 34 Richmond County schools that did not meet AYP in Monday's 2010 preliminary report are in Needs Improvement status, one more than last year. The one Richmond County school that came off Needs Improvement, Laney High School, did not meet AYP for the past school year but was put into "adequate" status because it received a federal school improvement grant that will be used, in part, to replace half the school's teachers.
Of the Richmond County schools on Needs Improvement, two - Glenn Hills High and Langford Middle - were listed in Monday's report as making AYP for the past school year. A school must meet AYP two consecutive years to be taken off Needs Improvement.
Richmond County schools on Needs Improvement that didn't make AYP this year are: Academy of Richmond County, Barton Chapel Elementary, Butler High, Cross Creek High, Glenn Hills Middle, Hephzibah High, Jenkins White Elementary, Josey High, Murphey Middle, Hornsby K-8, and Westside High.
AYP consists of three parts - test participation, academic achievement and a "second indicator," which includes the graduation rate. For a school to meet AYP, all students, as well as any qualifying subgroup, must meet goals in all three categories.
Statewide, fewer Georgia schools were in Needs Improvement, with just more than 14 percent now in the category compared with 15.4 percent in 2009.
"The initial AYP results demonstrate that our schools are more focused than ever and that is translating into fewer schools in Needs Improvement status," interim State School Superintendent Brad Bryant said in a release. "However, the academic bar and the graduation rate requirement increased this year, leading to a smaller percentage of schools making AYP, which is something we will focus closely on over the next several months."
More than 71 percent of Georgia's public schools made AYP. Last year, 79 percent of schools did. Besides new academic goals , the required graduation rate also increased this year to 80 percent, with an exception for schools that averaged an 80 percent graduation rate in the past three years or had a rate of at least 60 percent that improved 10 percent this year.