School AYP scorings analyzed
• Louisville Academy and Wrens Elementary made AYP; some others are appealing the state's figures
By Parish Howard
Why schools did not make it
While schools have been getting progress reports for decades, it is only recently, and especially since President Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation, that they have been getting special attention from the public.
Now that the new legislation ties Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) designations to the availability of federal Title 1 funds, educators and parents across the country are scrambling to make sense of federal guidelines and the AYP standings just released.
According to a press release from the Jefferson County Board of Education issued last week, "while the results do show some gains in student achievement across the school district, they also suggest the county has more work to do to address the needs of all children."
The President's legislation is billed as an overall system for improving student achievement. The law's three goals are (1) to make sure all students, including those from low-income families, minority populations and students with disabilities achieve well; (2) to hold schools responsible if all children do not perform well; (3) to make sure that there is a highly qualified teacher in every classroom.
The state reports that only Louisville Academy, which was recognized as distinguished for fulfilling all requirements for the last three years without using any of the three built-in safety nets, and Wrens Elementary made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) over the last school term, 2002-2003. While the other schools did not make AYP this year, that however does not mean that they have been placed on a needs improvement list. The only schools in the area on such a list are the two middle schools.
Both Carver Elementary and Jefferson County High School had made AYP for the previous two years. Neither met all their target areas in 2002-2003 so they both have the status of Adequate-Did Not Meet. Both Louisville Middle and Wrens Middle had each made AYP one time out of the two previous years. Since neither met all of their target groups in 2002-2003 and did not make AYP for two years in a row, they have the status of Needs Improvement.
Since these schools are on the Needs Improvement list, they will now have to develop plans for restructuring their curriculum and offer supplemental services such as intense tutoring in addition to the schools' current after school programs.
Under the new federal legislation, schools are required to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for all groups of students. These are broken into categories such as: black students, white students, students with disability, students who are limited English proficient and economically disadvantaged students. To make AYP, not only must all students as a group meet all the requirements, but each group must also meet all the requirements on its own.
In Georgia, proficiency is determined by how well elementary and middle grade students perform on the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) reading/English language arts and math tests. At the high school level, proficiency is defined by the 11th grade Georgia High School Graduation Tests in English and math.
To meet AYP goals for 2002-2003, 60 percent of all subgroups of elementary or middle grade students are expected to meet minimum competency levels on the reading/language arts portion and 50 percent are expected to on the math portion. The state requires that 88 percent of high school 11th graders, who took the state graduation test for the first time, meet minimum requirements on the English section and 81 percent meet minimum competency levels on the math portion.
In addition, schools are required to meet other academic indicators, which include attendance at the elementary schools and the graduation rate at the high schools. All subgroups of students (which must have at least 40 or more students within a school) also have to meet these requirements.
Glascock County Consolidated School did not make AYP because of too many absences in their younger grades and because their graduation rate did not meet the requirements.
The state requires no more than 15 percent of students to miss more than 15 days of school. Of Glascock's 291 (all) students, 18.2 percent missed too many days last year. In the subgroups, GCCS's 242 white students, 19.4 percent missed too many days, 28.9 percent of its 45 students with disabilities missed too many days and 24.2 percent of its 157 economically disadvantaged students missed too many days.
The state requires that a given high school's graduation rate be at least 60 percent. Last year GCCS's graduation rate went from 74.5 percent in 2001-2002 to 48.7 percent in 2002-2003, keeping them from making AYP in this area also.
"We've already begun to address these issues," said GCCS principal Sally Garrett. "We actually began looking at them before school began, when we saw the requirements and knew we weren't going to make it."
It was Carver Elementary's, Louisville Middle's and Wrens Middle's CRCT scores for individual subgroups that kept them from making the designation. At the elementary school level only fourth grade scores were used. At the middle school level, sixth and eighth grade scores were averaged together.
At Carver, 65 percent of the school's 51 fourth graders did not meet the basic requirements on the math portion of the CRCT although 50 percent is required.
Of the 106 economically disadvantaged students at Louisville Middle 58 percent met the basic requirements on the reading portion of the test. However, the state requires that 60 percent meet the basic requirements on this portion of the test.
Of Louisville Middle's 280 sixth and eighth grade students 158 (or 56 percent) did not meet the basic requirements on the math section. The state requires 50 percent. Of the school's 236 black students, 61 percent did not meet the objective. Of the school's 106 economically disadvantaged students, 51 percent did not meet the minimum requirements.
At Wrens Middle, 64 (or 47 percent) of the school's black students in grades six and eight, did not meet the basic requirements on the reading section. Neither did 76 percent of the school's students with disabilities nor 44 percent of its economically disadvantaged. On the math section, 64 percent of the school's black students did not meet the basic requirements, 83 percent of its students with disabilities did not and 61 percent of its economically disadvantaged did not.
Jefferson County High School did not make AYP first because the state's records show that it did not have 95 percent participation in the state graduation test by three subgroups and the graduation rates for two individual subgroups were too low.
According to the state only 92 percent of all 11th graders took the math portion of the graduation test. It also claims that 14 black 11th graders (10 percent) did not take the test, and only 89 percent of the economically disadvantaged took it. It also claims that only 94 percent of the economically disadvantaged 11th graders took the English portion.
The President's legislation requires Georgia high schools to graduate at least 60 percent of each subgroup of students in four years.
Since last year's graduation rate went up from 51 percent to 52.6 percent, showing some improvement, JCHS was not punished in the all students category even though its graduation rate did not meet the state required 60 percent. However, the state reports that only 45.8 percent of its black students graduated within four years. Additionally, only 46.4 percent of the school's economically disadvantaged fourth-year students graduated.
According to a spokesman for the Jefferson County School Board, at least two of the county's schools are planning to appeal the state's findings.
"We believe there may be some innaccurate data," JCHS principal Molly Howard said. "We had 13 students who completed their graduation tests and received regular diplomas this summer who did not march in graduation in May. These students, all of whom were black, could make the difference. They are 2003 graduates and can't be counted next year, so if they don't count in the 2003 figures, do they count at all?
"We also have 10 students who the state says did not participate in the graduation test. We've identified these to be special needs students whose individual education plans say they do not have to take the graduation exam. However the state has not developed an alternative assessment for this test. If we clear up these two things then we will make AYP.
"I don't believe that any of our county's educators are against accountability. But the numbers we are judged by need to be correct. All any of us ask for is a level playing field, critieria that can be substantiated, and the support of families, communities and politicians to make it happen."
For a more complete picture of statewide AYP results see the state website at www.doe.k12.ga.us.
50-acre toxic plume still moving underground
• Pilot project that will begin mitigation of the problem will cost between $182,000 and $265,000
By Ben Nelms
Nearly 50 residents heard the county's plans Aug. 12 to mitigate the contamination originating at the old Jefferson County landfill in Louisville. The 50-acre toxic chemical plume has moved to the south and southwest underground off county property and well past Clarks Mill Road. The first-year pilot project will cost between $182,000-265,000.
The three volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to be mitigated in the underground plume include cis-1,2 dichloroethene, trichloroethene and vinyl chloride. The three were formed from the breakdown of the "mother" chemical, tetrachloloethylene, which was introduced in unknown quantities at an unknown time while the landfill was operational, according to Curt Gorman, a geologist with landfill consulting engineering firm QORE, Inc. Records show that the landfill was permitted in 1979, though local residents maintain that dumping at the site began in the mid-1970s. The landfill ceased operation Dec. 31, 1999. Permits at the time did not require a lining to prevent contaminated water from leaching underground.
The chosen method to begin mitigating the 50-acre plume, approved June 13 by Environmental Protection Division's (EPD) Solid Waste Management Program, involves a technique referred to as air sparging, Gorman said. The technique calls for pumping compressed air into the base of the upper aquifer that lies 40-60 feet underground. Being more dense than water, the VOCs have settled to the bottom of the aquifer. Upon being mixed with air some of the VOCs will be evacuated from the well and disperse at ground surface. The addition of large volumes of air mixed with water and the VOCs will also stimulate the growth of microbes that will consume the VOCs. Air sparging is believed to be the most cost effective way to approach the mitigation at the site, said Gorman. Complementary to the technique is ongoing natural attenuation, the process by which the natural geologic and hydrologic conditions cause a breakdown and eventual elimination of VOCs.
Gorman told residents that the best approach to mitigating the contamination would be to attack the "hot zone" from which the VOCs are largely migrating. The pilot test calls for installing a "sparge-line" of test wells in the hot zone in an area 100-feet wide. The hot zone sits immediately south of the landfill and contains the highest concentration of VOCs. Focusing on the hot zone is designed to mitigate the greatest concentration of VOCs in the shortest amount of time. If the project is successful, it may diminish a portion of the southward movement of the entire plume.
"EPD says to clean up the plume," said Gorman. "The only cost effective way to do that is to cut off the head of the plume."
Gorman added that a section of the hot zone that will receive attention during the pilot project is a small area in the hot zone where dichloroethene may be penetrating the clay layer and working its way toward a deeper aquifer that lies beneath a kaolin layer. The deeper aquifer is situated approximately 80-100 feet beneath the surface.
The mitigation process could broaden to a 300 foot-wide sparge-line if the pilot test proves successful, he said.
Gorman told residents the cost of the one-year pilot project will be $182,000-265,000, thereby expending much of the capital costs up front. Nonetheless, the cost is significantly higher than the estimated $180,000 price tag Gorman quoted to commissioners at the Aug. 4 work session. Gorman could not provide an estimate of the total duration or cost of the mitigation process. He told commissioners in July 2002 that the process was likely to take many years and would cost "many hundreds of thousands of dollars and possibly more."
An approach to limiting the migration of the plume would be to install an impermeable cover over the old landfill, Gorman said. This approach would effectively limit the amount of rainwater that percolates through the landfill, causing the migration of the underground plume. Yet for an approximate price of $1-2 million it would not mitigate the existing concentrations of VOCs other than by natural attenuation, he said.
A portion of EPD's June 13 letter significant to affected residents was the requirement that "a sparge area must be included in the vicinity of (test wells) TP8 and GWC7 to address the plume migrating to the Davis, Saunders and Hughes wells." Gorman told residents his response to EPD would include the position that a sparge well was not needed in that location because no sufficient evidence of contamination originating at the landfill exists. Area residents disagreed with the county's position.
Some of those attending the hearing were residents whose property lies in close proximity to the plume along Clarks Mill Road and Berrien Branch Road. One of the residents, Tom Austin, was also on the agenda of the commission's regular session that followed the public hearing. Commissioners expressed differences of opinions over whether the county would pay for the hook-up to city water that was run to the area after contamination worries surfaced a few years ago.
Austin added that he found it coincidental that dichloroethene was detected under an area of his family's property used for more than 30 years as a garden. No one in his family had dumped the chemical onto the ground where it would show up decades later, he said. His statement was a follow-up to those made on the same issue at a public hearing held in September 2002.
In a continuation of the concerns initially expressed in a similar public hearing held in September 2002, other residents stated their belief that the county should provide both testing for water from private wells still used by residents not on county water.
Contacted after the public hearing, commission Chairman Gardner Hobbs said commissioners will address the various issues involving tap-on fees and water testing of residential wells in the immediate area at the Sept. 1 work session.
The public hearing was held in accordance with EPD requirements spelled out in a June 13 letter from Geologist Steve McManus. The hearing was required because the September 2002 hearing did not fulfill the full public disclosure mandate to provide residents with the cost and duration of the mitigation.
Origins of trash to be verified
• Only way to be sure it isn't coming in from out of the county is randomly sampling bags by hand
By Ben Nelms
A solution to citizens' historic concerns with the possibility of out of county trash being deposited into the Jefferson County landfill may finally be over. A directive by newly hired county administrator Paul Bryan with the approval of county commissioners now requires compliance with state law by inspecting loads of trash by all commercial haulers.
"I believe that the only way we can ensure that no materials from other counties are brought into the county is to inspect every load that comes into the landfill by any commercial hauler," said Bryan in a memo to Public Works Director Talmadge Chalker and Marshal Alan Wasden. "Therefore, I am directing that all loads of commercial trash hauled material be inspected as quickly as it is dumped to determine if the material originated outside the county."
The directive applies to both the municipal solid waste and inert landfills on Mennonite Church Road and the proposed construction and demolition landfill at the same site. It charges landfill personnel and the county marshal with the responsibility of ensuring that the terms of the directive are met.
The decision to begin monitoring is based on state law 36-1-16 that states "No person, firm, corporation, or employee of any municipality shall transport, to a contract, whether oral or otherwise, garbage, trash, waste, or refuse across state or county boundaries for the purpose of dumping the same at a publicly or privately owned dump, unless permission is first obtained from the governing authority of the county in which the dump is located and from the governing authority of the county in which the garbage, trash, waste, or refuse is collected."
Bryan said a procedure will be developed to ensure that a significant sampling of all loads from commercial haulers will be inspected.
Inherent in the procedure will be the need to visually inspect the samples. The procedure can only be effectively accomplished by tearing open individual trash bags to determine the origin of the trash, he said. Personnel performing the work would look for evidence such as a specified quantity of mail addressed to business or residences from other counties contained in the trash bags.
Numerous issues surrounding the landfill have been some of the most contentious and contested topics faced by commissioners in the past four years. During that period both individuals and groups such as the Concerned Citizens of Jefferson County, Inc. expressed the need for inspections of trash, citing the same state law, but no action by commissioners was taken.