Decatur system all clear in report
By Bayne Hughes
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For the first time in recent years, the Decatur City System is in the clear under the state's accountability testing guidelines.
Decatur achieved its overall Adequate Yearly Progress standard, falling short in only in the special education subcategory. Somerville Road Elementary was the only school that did not achieve AYP.
With Austin High School moving off "school improvement — one-year delay" because of graduation rate, none of Decatur's schools is under school improvement status.
"The school system is clear for the first time in several years and that's very important. We're very proud," Superintendent Sam Houston said.
The system received a "no" on annual progress at the high school level on scores made by students in the special education subgroup.
Houston attributed Decatur's improvement to a system in which each school's administration and staff analyze test data and then set "ambitious goals." Teachers attend monthly department and faculty meetings to study the data and the system holds quarterly data meetings.
"The teachers and principals have done an outstanding job of keeping focused on student achievement and working together on the grade levels,' he said.
Houston said Decatur making adequate yearly progress is an achievement because it deals with many more subgroups than many of its neighbors. Only three of Decatur's schools have fewer than 17 subgroups, while some have as many as 29 subgroups.
"That's probably three times the number of goals than some of the small systems around us," Houston said.
After achieving AYP last year and getting off school improvement status, Somerville Road Elementary fell short again this year on AYP, achieving 24 of 25 goals, but it is still in the clear. A school goes on the improvement list if it doesn't make AYP two years in a row.
Somerville Road has a free-and-reduced lunch rate of more than 90 percent, plus 30 percent of its students are special education and 30 percent are English-as-Second-Language students. The free and reduced lunch rate is used to measure poverty.
The school didn't make AYP because it didn't achieve its goal in reading for the special education subgroup.
Houston said he's not sure the school didn't make AYP. He said school officials want to check to see if the state is giving the school credit for some students taking the alternate assessment.
"Somerville Road has made remarkable progress," Houston said. "It exceeded the proficiency index significantly in the other 24 areas."
Graduation rates have been a concern at both high schools. Decatur High achieved AYP by improving its rate from 71 to 76 percent, while Austin is 86 percent. A school achieves AYP if it improves its graduation rate or if it has a rate at 90 percent or above. Both schools are averaging between 97 and 98 percent of eligible students passing the graduation exam.
"We're in a transition from dropout rate to graduation rate, but we still want to improve our graduation rate," Houston said. "The goal is 90 percent and at least we're given credit for making significant improvement toward that goal."
Graduation rates at Decatur and Austin high schools have been a problem. Decatur achieved Adequate Yearly Progress by improving its graduation rate from 71 to 76 percent. Austinís rate is 86 percent.
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