Of Catoosa’s 13 schools, all but Ringgold Middle passed the state’s annual report card.
The Georgia Department of Education released the scores on Monday.
The report card, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, is a component of the federal “No Child Left Behind ACT,” which requires schools to meet a series of academic and performance goals, including state mandated test scores and participation, attendance and graduation rate.
Ronnie Bradford, Ringgold Middle School principal, said mere percentage points have given his school a negative label.
RMS failed in only one criteria of AYP; in the students with disabilities subgroup, 47.33 percent of students met or exceeded standards on the Criterion Referenced Competency Test in reading/language arts. The target score for AYP purposes was 48 percent.
How can you make dramatic improvements in every area and still be labeled a failing school," he said. "Everybody has to live with the way Georgia has interpreted the No Child Left Behind Act. It's frustrating because it (AYP) is not a good measure."
In 2003, three Catoosa schools — Tiger Creek Elementary, Ringgold High School and Lakeview Middle School — failed to make AYP.
School Superintendent Beth Kellerhals said some of the severe and profoundly handicapped students, who were counted as attending Ringgold Middle School, actually attend special instructional programs outside the school.
“I’d like to see AYP accountability be determined by students who are housed at our schools, and right now the scope goes beyond that,” she said.
Since 2001-02 RMS has improved from 22.6 percent of students with disabilities passing the CRCT in reading/ language arts to last year's 47.33 percent. The school improved in every area of testing and attendance in 2003-04, when only 8.3 percent of students missed 15 or more days compared to 14.1 percent in the 2002-03 school year.
Bradford said his school has 180 students with disabilities, about 11 percent of the school's total population. He said under AYP guidelines some disabled students who could not read or write were forced to take the CRCT instead of the Georgia Alternative Assessment (GAA) test, which can be administered to severely disabled students in lieu of the CRCT.
Bradford said the school is appealing the state's report.
Tiger Creek Elementary did not achieve AYP for six straight years until this year, according to Kim Nichols, director of curriculum for Catoosa schools.
Rodney Thompson, in his third year as principal at the school, said up until last year poor attendance numbers were the cause for not making the state’s requirements, and test scores were the issue in years past.
In 2002-03, 24.1 percent of Tiger Creek’s students missed 15 or more days. That number dropped to 5 percent last year, in large part due to attendance award programs like weekly drawings for $5 prizes and a bicycle give-away every semester for students who exhibited exemplary attendance, Thompson said. He said the school “tried to just have fun” with attendance efforts.
“We found out children can put more pressure on the parents when the motivation’s there,” he said “I am pleased for the community and the school for receiving this recognition.”
Eighty-nine percent of Tiger Creek students passed reading/language arts on the CRCT, while 88 percent met or exceeded standards in mathematics.
“Our test scores were phenomenal,” Thompson said.
Ringgold High School was another school that joined the list after the graduation rate prevented them from doing so last year.
RHS posted a 55.3 percent graduation rate in 2002-03, which jumped to 60.5 percent last year.
Tommy Langley, Ringgold High School principal, said even more improvement is in store for the future.
“I was afraid we were not going to be high enough this year, but we did make it,” he said. “Both years we have had great scores in other areas.”
“We’re extremely pleased with all of our schools performances,” Kellerhals said.
She said some areas of intense focus for the upcoming year will be improving subgroup academic scores and increasing high school graduation rates.Staff writer Randall Franks contributed to this story.