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Lawrence superintendent 'tickled'

By Kristen Bishop 340-2443

MOULTON — Lawrence County Superintendent Dexter Rutherford said Monday he was "tickled to death" about the school system's 2006-07 assessment results.

Last year's two remaining schools on "school improvement," according to the state's Adequate Yearly Progress reports, are now in the clear.

The state cited Moulton Middle School and East Lawrence Middle School for low special-education scores during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 reports. The schools had to show improvement two years in a row to clear their status.

According to the schools' last two accountability reports, neither school had enough special-education students to meet the requirements for a special-education subgroup and were, therefore, exempt from that category from 2005 to 2007.

The state established the Adequate Yearly Progress standards as a result of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Academic test scores, attendance and graduation rates are used to determine whether a school or school system is meeting standards or in need of improvement.

Lawrence County met the overall AYP standards this year, but Hazlewood and Speake High Schools did not meet the individual school standards because of inadequate graduation rates.

The state goal is 90 percent. Schools do not have to report graduation rates that high but must at least show improvement from the year before.

Speake's graduation rate last year was 77 percent, down four points from the previous year.

Hazlewood had an 89 percent graduation rate, down from last year's 92 percent.

Rutherford said school officials have filed an appeal for Hazlewood's rate because two students that passed graduation exams over the summer were not counted in the deciding percentage.

"We hope to be able to change that, because our schools have worked extremely hard," said Rutherford.

Speake, on the other hand, will have to improve next year or be classified in "school improvement."

The graduation rates are based on how many freshmen four years prior graduated as seniors that year.

Speake had 44 freshmen during the 2003-04 school year. Two dropped out that year, three dropped out in the 10th grade and one dropped out during the class's senior year. Four didn't pass the graduation exam, leaving only 33 seniors to graduate.

"When you're talking about a school the size of Speake, one or two students can make a huge difference," said Rutherford. "Larger schools have more leeway."

He said the overall picture of Lawrence County schools shouldn't be marred by those two downfalls.

"We were tickled to death when we saw the report. This has been a concentrated effort from our teachers and staff," said Rutherford.

"It's a never-ending thing, but as we stand right now, we're pretty excited."

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