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Atmore schools make the grade

By By Adam Prestridge
For the first time in three years, every Atmore county school accomplished all of their academic goals according to state standards, although graduation rates remain low countywide.
Escambia County High School, Escambia County Middle School, A.C. Moore Elementary School and Huxford Elementary School each met 13 out of 13 goals set forth by the state as part of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). For ECHS, meeting AYP does not mean it is in the clear as it remains in three-year delayed school improvement for reading.
Escambia County Superintendent Billy Hines said he was excited with the results out of Atmore.
As for the county as a whole, every school met their academic goals, but W.S. Neal High School and Flomaton High School missed the graduation rate goal. For W.S. Neal, it was the second year the school missed meeting the goal for the graduation rate.
Escambia County High School met its graduation rate goal, which held the school back in the past, and improved enough on other academic goals to meet its overall academic standards. Means expressed gratitude to administrators across the county for support and offered encouragement to others still struggling.
Hines said all of the county’s high schools will benefit from new programs and even a new law aimed at halting the dropout rate.
This past spring, the state Legislature passed a new law that requires students to be 17 before they can drop out of school. That can help keep students on track, Hines said.
Other efforts to curb the dropout rate include credit recovery, a program in which students who are failing can enter a remedial class during school year, before they actually fail the class and lose the credit.
The school system also has received a grant for after-school tutorial programs to help students stay on grade level, he said.
Hines pointed out that both high schools that did not meet graduation rate goals were within 5 percent of making the goal.
While schools met their academic goals, Assistant Superintendent Mary Bess Powell said administrators and students will dig deep into the test results to see which areas and which students need the most improvement.
Each school receives scores based on certain subgroups, divided by race or economic factors. While a subgroup’s performance affects overall adequate yearly progress only if 40 or more students are in that subgroup, teachers are looking at how each student performs.
Throughout the year, teachers and administrators hold grade level meetings to discuss students’ progress and share ideas, Powell said.
While the No Child Left Behind law — the reason behind Monday’s annual progress report for schools — has its flaws, Powell said the standards and goals the state has set to meet the law force schools to pay attention to the performance of every student.
Brewton Publisher Kerry Whipple Bean contributed to this story.