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WMS comes off “Needs Improvement” list

For nearly a decade Washington Middle School has been labeled as a substandard school, but those days are now over.
After two consecutive years of meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the school is no longer on the list of Georgia schools considered to “need improvement.”
“This is a huge accomplishment, and I am extremely proud of our faculty, staff and students. Everyone worked hard, and I am proud to be associated with Washington Middle School,” said WMS Principal Kermit Gilliard.
He added, “Working together, we will produce students who are ready to take on the world.”
Georgia Department of Education officials in Atlanta released the official results of the amended AYP report Friday and it confirmed what Grady County School System personnel thought.
Initial reports had indicated the school failed to meet AYP, but that was before scores from retests were calculated. Once the final numbers were in, WMS showed improvement in the academic performance of its special education students, which is the subgroup that has dogged the school in AYP for much of the last nine years when the school was on the needs improvement list.
Top school system officials are also pleased with the results released last week.
“That group of teachers has worked hard and done everything they were asked to do plus some more for several years now. There have been curriculum reviews and much more. They have all worked very hard, and I am extremely proud of Washington Middle School. The administration, faculty, staff and students are all to be congratulated,” Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis said.
Much of the reason for WMS not meeting AYP standards over the years was due to the academic performance of special education and economically disadvantaged subgroups, but Dr. Pharis says scores by these subgroups improved this year even with the target being set higher.
“It was a total school effort,” Pharis added.
Because WMS was on the list of “needs Improvement” schools, the school system had to offer school choice to local students. Many students selected to attend either Whigham or Shiver and the school system was required to provide free transportation for students to those two schools.
By meeting AYP, the school choice option ends and the school system is not required to provide free transportation. However, to give parents time to make plans regarding transportation, the school system will maintain the current transportation system through the Christmas holidays.
Students who elected to attend Whigham and Shiver may remain at the school of their choice, but the school system will no longer provide free transportation to those schools.
Cairo High School is the lone Grady County school not to meet AYP, but Dr. Pharis says the CHS administration, faculty, staff and students are doing everything possible to improve the academic performance of the school’s African American students and its subgroup of students who are economically disadvantaged.
“The bottom line is, it takes students, teachers and parents working all together in order for all of our children to succeed. Teachers are a big part of it, but it is not their total responsibility,” Dr. Pharis said.

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