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Marengo Co. Schools sweep

For the second straight year, Sweet Water and A.L. Johnson met their Adequate Yearly Progress numbers according to the Alabama Department of Education. Their Marengo County School counterparts joined them; Marengo County High and John Essex making it a clean sweep this year.

“Anytime you put a whole lot of data in a formula, sometimes you’re not 100 percent sure what the results are going to be,” said Luke Hallmark, the superintendent of Marengo County Schools. “All the way from Kindergarten through the grade 12 our teachers and administrators were able to grasp what our curriculum and programs needed to be and were able to implement them so that the kids understood what was expected of them.”

Statewide, the Marengo County Schools system joined nearly 1,200 other schools in finishing 100 percent in their AYP requirements.

“I found out what the results were Friday when I was on vacation,” said Hallmark. “[Monday] when we notified two of our schools it was like kids celebrating after winning a state championship. Both the kids and the teachers were excited for the accomplishments.”

Last year, Marengo and John Essex both failed to meet 100 percent. They each were at about 60 percent, according to Hallmark.

This year, however, marks the first time that all four county schools have been 100 percent in Adequate Yearly Progress.

“We were able to put reading coaches at all four schools last year,” said Hallmark. “I think that had an impact. I think a lot of the professional development that we had in place goes towards the improvement of the staff. We also had administrators, resource teachers and the teachers themselves buying into the program. That made a huge difference.”

The Linden City Schools also were able to reach 100 percent in this year’s AYP grading.

At R.C. Hatch High in Perry County, the AYP brought about bittersweet news. Hatch made all the academic standards, however, according to No Child Left Behind, because their graduation rate was only 89 percent, they didn’t meet AYP this year.

“Hatch literally missed it by one student,” said John Heard, superintendent of Perry County schools. “It does make me proud that they made it academically. The improvement has been steady over the past couple of years. In fact, of all the accountability standards we’re graded on, we were just one away from 100 percent across the board.”

According to No Child Left Behind, the graduation rate of a high school has to be 90 percent.

“It’s difficult to keep a child from dropping out,” said Heard. “We are going to whatever we can to keep them in schools. We are working with the parents and the churches in the area. But ultimately, it is on the child to stay in school.”

System wide, however, the remaining Perry County Schools were able to claim 100 percent AYP status.

In Sumter County, Sumter County High failed to meet 100 percent AYP while all the other schools did. Greene County had the same scenario – all the other schools met 100 percent AYP except for Greene County High School.

Meeting AYP, however, is a daunting task for some schools, especially schools and students in areas where technology is limited.

Under the No Child Left Behind Law, students within a school are separated into different categories, including race and economic background. A school that fails to show adequate yearly progress for all of its different types of students for two years is identified for improvement. A school must make adequate yearly progress for all of its different types of students for two years to get off the list.

Alabama has 458 schools identified for improvement. Of those, 294 are schools where large numbers of the students come from poor families, and the No Child Left Behind Law requires them to offer students the option to move to another school within the school system, if one is available.

Morton said he is pleased to see that black and Hispanic students, who have traditionally lagged behind white students, are making significant strides. For instance, 84 percent of white fourth graders performed at their grade level in math, compared to 67 percent of black fourth graders and 68 percent of Hispanic fourth graders. Those numbers were up from 82 percent, 62 percent, and 61 percent, respectively, from a year earlier.

Gov. Bob Riley, who serves on the state Board of Education, said he was troubled by one item in the annual report: Alabama’s 82 percent graduation rate.

“We are going to have to do better than we are doing,” Riley said.