Originally created 11/17/00

Richmond County High #1 in state

For the second year in a row, an Atlanta-based private organization has ranked a Richmond County High school first in the state.

John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet school was ranked Thursday by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, as the top school. It claimed the same title last year and was ranked second in 1998.

Richmond County's A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet school was ranked third, up from last year's rating of No. 7.

The group ranks high schools based on students math and language arts sections of the Georgia High School Graduation Test.

Elementary and middle schools are measured by math and reading sections on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

Though most were elated about the local honors, some say it's not fair to include magnet schools with the rest of the state's public schools.

"(The magnet schools) can choose their students and other schools cannot," said Marion Barnes, who recently won a seat on the Richmond County school board. "It's not a good indicator when you say the magnet schools are so much better than the others. If you took Josey or Laney (high schools) and gave them a choice of students and a choice of rules and teachers, they could do the same thing as Davidson and Johnson, maybe even better."

Rogers Wade, president of the foundation, said magnet schools are included in the report because they use public money.

"About every year we consider not including them," Mr. Wade said. "But we rationalize back down to the idea. They are still public schools and there's still public dollars that go into them so their rankings will be about the same."

Mr. Wade said the organization will include teacher accountability in its report in two years when that portion of Gov. Roy Barnes' Education Reform Bill takes effect.

He said however, that he hopes the report will spark an interest in parents to question school officials about where their schools stand.

"It's geared to parents, it's not geared to educators," Mr. Wade said. " It gives parents an ability to sit down with teachers and principals at their (child's) school and ask why is this one better than this one."

In Richmond County, the newest high school - Cross Creek, ranked 224 out of 323 schools. Lucy Laney High ranked 311, an improvement from 315 last year; T.W. Josey high ranked 314, down from 291 last year.

Columbia County's Lakeside high ranked 21, down from 15 last year; Greenbrier high school ranked 46, down from 38 last year; Evans High ranked 50, down from 44 last year and Harlem High is 195, down from 121 last year.

Renee Kelly, assistant principal of Davidson Fine Arts, was modest about the school's accomplishment.

"We don't really concentrate on the rankings," Ms. Kelly said. "We just handle daily business and make sure we're doing the best for the students. We're real happy about this honor because it's a reflection of all of the high schools in Richmond County because we get students from all over the county."

Among the 416 state middle schools ranked in the report, Davidson - which has sixth through 12th graders - is ranked third in state; Lakeside Middle is 16 and C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet school is 18.

Other local rankings were:

Riverside Middle, 30

Columbia Middle, 59

Tutt Middle, 152

Morgan Road Middle, 205

Tubman Middle, 398

East Augusta Middle, 399

The Foundation also separated the rankings by region. In the east Region, Davidson got the top spot out of the 77 middle schools ranked; Lakeside middle is No. 2; C.T. Walker is third; Riverside Middle is ranked fourth and Columbia Middle is fifth.

Lakeside Middle school principal Bill Morris said the state and regional ranking of his school is the highest that he can recall receiving in several years.

"Sometimes it's hard to really know what's valid and what's not," Mr. Morris said of the report card. "But in our case this past year we did enjoy much higher test scores than we ever had. I think it's because we had a talented group of kids and we have very hard-working teachers, and we did some things we'd never done before."

Out of 1,086 elementary schools ranked in the state, no local school made the top 20. In the East region, however, where 164 schools were ranked, Columbia County schools were highly ranked, including:

Blue Ridge Elementary, 3

Riverside Elementary, 4

Greenbrier Elementary, 5

Warren Road Elementary was Richmond County's highest ranked elementary school at No. 7, beating C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet school, which was No. 11, down three spots from last year. Richmond County's Wilkerson Gardens Elementary ranked last among the region's 164 schools.

To see a ranking of all state schools, go online to www.gppf.org

Staff writer Peggy Ussery contributed to this report.

Reach Faith Johnson at (706) 823-3765 orfaithj@augustachronicle.com.

Top five public high schools in the state, out of 323 ranked:

1)John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet

2)McIntosh High, Fayette County

3)A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet

4)Pope High, Cobb County

5)Roswell High, Fulton County

Where other area high schools ranked:

Academy of Richmond County High, 235

Butler High, 287

Cross Creek High, 224

Evans High, 50

Glenn Hills High, 286

Greenbrier High, 46

Harlem High, 195

Hephzibah High, 272

Lakeside High, 21

Lucy C. Laney High, 311

Thomson High, 250

T.W. Josey High, 314

Westside High, 117


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