Local students are getting out or have already gotten out of school for this school year and have mostly finished their state tests, but school officials continue to plan how students can succeed in their studies going forward. They use a number of studies and benchmarks to track student progress, one of them being the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). Last year, the McDuffie County school system received an F grade on that scale and Warren County’s system received a C.
Every November, Georgia schools receive officials scores from the state’s Department of Education from state-wide tests such as the Georgia Milestones Test. Those scores and the progress they reflect are communicated through the CCRPI, a comprehensive school improvement, accountability, and communication platform that aims to promote college and career readiness for Georgia public school students. School districts and the public can look at these scores to see how their education system is doing and plan improvements due to the index’s coverage of content mastery, progress, closing gaps, and other measures. However, the method in which scores get calculated can differ from year to year. For example, the 2018 CCRPI uses an updated calculation. It can’t be used to compare any prior year. To measure the changes from year to year, other sources must be used.
In the 2018 release, McDuffie and Warren County had the following breakdown of its CCRPI scores:
McDuffie County earned an overall score of 59.6 out of 100, with a break down of 60.8 at the elementary school level, 51.6 at the middle school level, and 63.7 at the high school level. The county serves 4,066 students.
In preparations for the test, McDuffie County has taken a number of initiatives. This year, Lynn Cato,director of curriculum and instruction, said the district ran blitz sessions for third to eighth graders. Teachers worked with students after school to help them improve for the end-of-the-year tests. The district has had the program in various forms before.
In regards to new programs, Cato spoke about targeted achievement. For example, students with disabilities have been working with the Reading Mastery program this year. Cato said the program was chosen after the district saw a performance gap between student peer groups who did not have disabilities, and it has shown success.
With teachers, Cato said the district worked on professional development. In workshops, teachers deconstructed standards and looked at specific skills to target with students. And, the district has gathered testing data from students that can be sent to next year’s teachers. With that information, teachers can mold their lessons to student need.
“Our teachers worked very hard throughout the year,” she said. “Teachers are working extremely hard to hone their craft.”
In the topic of state scores, Cato said that tracking progress is a moving target due to how quickly standards for testing change. However, Cato also said the district tracks student progress itself throughout the year and makes plans with that information. Schools get preliminary scores back from the state before summer break begins. Official scores release in the fall.
So far, Cato reported positive feedback in certain areas for testing at the May 16 McDuffie Board of Education meeting, though official scores are currently embargoed. Cato reported more students testing out of English Language Services. She also reported improvements in English Language Arts scores for third, fifth, and seventh grades, gains in students reading on level, and an increase in students scoring at the developing learning level or higher in math.
“The data is very important, as far as the Lexile level, because what it tells us is that even though the test gets harder as the children progress in school, they’re reading more proficient,” she said. “So, we’re very, very please with that and plan to continue our work in the coming year.”
Every year, the board has a data retreat in the summer. During that retreat, the board looks at information from internal and external data regarding student achievement. With that, the board decides what adjustments, if any, are needed in the district’s overall strategic plan.
“We have to make sure it’s evidence,” Cato said. “There has to be a strong body of evidence that programs will affect students in a positive manner.”
To parents, Cato emphasized the need to hear from them and said that the district does listen to what they say. The district sends out surveys to parents that asks about preferences for things such as the timing of parent workshops and the kind of workshops wanted. From there, the district can make support plans. Currently, Cato is putting together the results of this year’s surveys.
“We really do read them,” she said.
Going forward, Cato said the focus won’t lean towards creating new programs but improving current programs and plans.
“We’re planning to refine what we have,” she said.
Warren County earned an overall score of 73 out of 100, with a break down of 67.8 at the elementary school level, 77.3 at the middle school level, and 80.4 at the high school level.The county serves 619 students.
This year, Warren County Schools Superintendent Carol Jean Carey said that the school has beat the odds for school systems with similar backgrounds. She added that growth in scores from the past can be attributed to the teachers in their system.
“They go the extra mile,” she said. “We do a lot of different things that we’ve found to be successful.”
Carey said the district encourages teachers to get creative with their classes and share their ideas. Carey pointed to one third-grade teaching duo that requested to have a shared door between their classrooms so that they could collaboratively teach. One room is a lab, and the other is a regular classroom With their shared teaching style, Carey said that the pair produced some of the highest scores for third-graders.
For first year teachers, Carey said the district sends them to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta to learn. With that experience, she said teachers can brainstorm about what they want to do in their own classrooms.
On overall lesson plans, Carey said the district looks at yearly plans and goals instead of frequent breakdowns of individual lessons. This, she said, only works with quality teachers and trust. But, by having less time dedicated to writing plans, Carey said teachers have more time to focus on implementing plans.
In other areas, Carey said the district has also branched out to improve scores. At the highschool level, she said a program called Achieve 3000 is being used to increase reading scores and abilities. In the elementary school, she said a program for grammar improvement is also being used. The district also uses Google Classroom to share work. And, it has also brought in consultants from the Regional Education Service Area(RESA) come in and work with teachers on writing.
To help parents support their students, Carey said the system also has a variety of events during the year, like Literacy Night. They provide things like food to make attending events easier.
Still, Carey spoke of ways the system could improve. This year’s fifth grade class and the senior class did not perform as highly as expected, she said. Carey said that assessments during the year pointed to that direction, but preventative measures in the year didn’t prevent bad scoring for the tests.
Next year, Carey said the district will consider such things as schedule changes at the end of the day and support services to continue progress. Warren County, too, is looking at data and will work on their strategic plan in the summer.
“We try to get, not just an opinion, but some data,” she said.