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School reports show normal area trends

The school accountability report cards for the 2002-2003 school year were released Thursday.

Letter grades were given in 30 different categories. The schools or overall systems were classified by the terms: clear, watch and priority. Clear means a positive grade in every area, said Dr. Wesley Hill, Demopolis school superintendent. Watch occurs when a certain percentage of students do not score well in a particular category. Priority is the most severe warning.

More than ever before the report card tries to isolate the problems facing poor and ethnic children in each system. “Fifty-five percent of our kids would be classified as in poverty, (utilizing the free lunch program),” Hill said. “…Our challenge is to get a greater achievement from the poorer kids.”

The standards are set through the federal “No Child Left Behind” program. The school systems are putting into place more after-school programs and additional programs that can be offered during the day to aid those children.

“Watch” and “priority” was attached to “clear” status on the Demopolis SAT scores. The students in grade three and four suffered the most. “When we reach grade five we start catching up with the state,” Hill said. “…Certain grades (also) have a higher percentage of the free or reduced lunch kids.”

Even though “watch” is attached to the “clear” status for fifth grade writing Hill believes the work in the fifth grade has improved from last year. “We’ve hit it harder,” said Gina Johnston, federal programs and secondary education coordinator for the Demopolis system. More and more writing is being performed in earlier grades, she said.

The Demopolis system was “clear” on the graduation exit exam with all income groups. The system has a staff member dedicated to remediation on the exit exam.

The version of the annual report card in the last two years has exposed the system’s weaknesses. “It makes you look at each category a little closer,” Johnston said.

“It’s helpful from an instructional standpoint,” Hill said. Instructors will have to “teach smarter,” the superintendent said to meet the challenge.

In trying to react to the results found these annual report cards, Hill said “we don’t want to give up the ambition to provide the very best for the most outstanding students.”

Johnston believes the Demopolis system has the programs in place to solve the disadvantage for poorer students. “We just have to stay focused on it,” she said.

The main problem facing school systems is the lack of funding on the state and federal level to address weaknesses. There needs to be more money for training, particularly in the math and science area. “It takes a lot creativity to meet the standards,” Johnston said, without adequate funding.

A quick survey of school systems in area counties shows the following results:

Demopolis City: SAT, Clear with Watch and Priority;

Writing in Grade 5, Clear with Watch;

Writing in Grade 7, Clear;

Graduation Exam, Clear;

Linden City: SAT, Watch with Priority;

Writing in Grade 5, Watch;

Writing in Grade 7, Clear;

Graduation Exam, Priority;

Marengo County: SAT, Watch with Priority;

Writing in Grade 5, Clear;

Writing in Grade 7, Clear with Watch;

Graduation Exam, Clear;

Greene County: SAT, Watch with Priority;

Writing in Grade 5, Clear with Watch;

Writing in Grade 7, Watch;

Graduation Exam, Watch.

Hale County: SAT Clear with Watch and Priority;

Writing in Grade 5, Clear;

Writing in Grade 7, Clear

Graduation Exam, Clear;

Perry County: SAT, Watch with Priority;

Writing in Grade 5, Watch;

Writing in Grade 7, Watch;

Graduation Exam, Clear;

Sumter County: SAT, Watch with Priority;

Writing in Grade 5, Clear;

Writing in Grade 7, Watch;

Graduation Exam, Clear.