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Grayson schools making progress

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Grayson County has all but one school accredited and once again barely missed federal adequate yearly progress (AYP) benchmarks as a division — leaving school administrators excited about the improvements.

School Director of Instruction and Assessment Stephen Cornett updated the school board on the system's progress during a regular meeting Oct. 12.

The school system managed to add Independence Middle School to its list of schools that met AYP, leaving only two — Fries Middle and Independence Elementary — remaining to improve

"Two years ago, we only had four of our current nine schools meet AYP," Cornett told the board. "We've made a lot of progress in a short amount of time."

Before Cornett could continue, school division Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas applauded the progress. "That is a 100 percent increase in the number of accredited schools in that amount of time," she said. "It's a remarkable achievement."

Cornett gave credit to the faculty, staff, students and parents for working hard together to increase the scores.

The benchmarks increase by 4 percent each year, and this year the required passing numbers were 81 percent for English and 79 percent for math.

When looking over the numbers, FMS had a pass rate of 72.14 percent in English and 51.82 percent in math. While they aren't passing, they both increased greatly over the previous year, in which the school saw only 69.98 percent pass in English and 43.5 percent pass the math.

At Independence Elementary, the school exceeded both numbers (84.89 percent in English and 83.09 percent in math) but did not meet AYP because of a sub-group.

Cornett said the administration has identified that sub-group and feels that they have made improvements to fix that for next year.

Division-wide, Grayson had a pass rate of 81.66 percent for English and 79.67 percent for math — but again did not meet AYP because of sub-groups' performance.

Overall, the division saw six schools increase their English pass rates — Baywood (+4.76 percent), Fairview (+1 percent), FMS (+2.16 percent), IMS (+6.09 percent), Mount Rogers (+3.14 percent) and Providence (+11.14 percent) — while four schools — FMS (+8.32 percent), GCHS (+3.94  percent), IES (+1.98 percent) and IMS (+5.82 percent) — increased their math percentages.

Grayson now has eight of its nine schools fully accredited, with FMS receiving warnings in English and math.

The latest school accreditation ratings are based on the achievement of students on state Standards Of Learning (SOL) assessments and approved substitute tests in English, mathematics, history and science administered during the summer and fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009.

The results of tests administered in each subject area are combined to produce overall school passing percentages in English, mathematics, history and science.

In middle and high schools, a pass rate of at least 70 percent in all four subject areas is required for full accreditation.

Fries Middle had a 55 percent pass rate in mathematics and 68 percent in grades 6, 7 and 8 English.

While the school administration knows they still "have some work to do" at FMS, Cornett stated that they've come so far in all of the schools.

A school improvement team has been placed at FMS, and the school administration is working to help FMS achieve accreditation next year.

"This division has made remarkable gains in student achievement," Thomas said, noting that students in the county will only continue to benefit from a stronger education. "We put in place a comprehensive plan to address student achievement in this county three years ago, now we're seeing the good results."