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Schools mull Common Core Curriculum

By Sherri Ellington At the only government meeting that was not cancelled due to the snowstorm last week, learning support specialists from each school gave a report on current test data and other changes due to the Georgia Common Core Curriculum to the board of education. ’Lamar County elementary is tired of putting a Band-Aid on our kids, scratching the surface so they can pass the state test and get to the next level,’ said Marci Vining at the Feb. 11 meeting. ‘When we run the new reports they go way deep. We have third graders who are at a kindergarten level in some areas. The status quo is no longer acceptable.’ Under CCC changes ‘“ which have been going in over a period of years, making test scores hard to compare over time ‘“ local educators are in charge of implementing new teacher evaluations and classroom goals. These now include teachers meeting together across grades and schools so they can pinpoint areas where local children need work. ’Technology classes are doing exceptionally well,’ said Vining. ‘We’re working hard to be the top and are teaching our kids to think.’ Third graders are behind in reading and math while fourth graders are struggling in math, she said. Fifth graders are doing well. These are the only two elementary CCC subjects at this time. From the primary school, Amy Christopher said students have completed their midyear benchmarks right before Christmas break. ’We had the expected increases,’ she said. ’There’s nothing out of the ordinary except a larger increase in second grade reading than in the past. Our rigor and expectations have gone up.’ Intervention labs have been set up for first and second graders who are not meeting expectations and are serving 60 to 70 students. Another 174 children are in the Math Whiz Kids group. ’The main emphasis is on fluency,’ Christopher said. ‘We could serve several more. There’s simply not enough available seats.’ For kindergarten, signifi cant gains were made in math, its weakest area especially with changes in the state curriculum. ’All of our teachers felt like first year teachers when we started Common Core,’ she said. ‘We’re now more comfortable after in-house training.’ ’Reading is our strength,’ said principal Becky Brown. ‘There’s some growth we can have and still some work to do with the extra resources required by the CCC.’ Denise Finley from the middle school noted this year’s data is being collected as the baseline for future year’s growth. ’We’re working on three years’ worth of CRCT data to get a deeper look,’ Finley said. After last year’s test, the eighth grade math scores had the highest improvement across the board at 25% growth from the beginning of the year. There are now before and after school tutoring programs and Saturday School for algebra. ’Our teachers had to do homework, complete a project and bring it back,’ she said. ‘We put it up on the walls for the students to see.’ Other programs include transition planning with the high school, a new counselor and cultural training. Coffee Talks for parents and public meetings at the E.P. Roberts Center are being planned. ’Parents sometimes don’t know how to navigate school,’ she said. Assistant principal Catherine Brown from the high school said it is using benchmarks for teachers to ensure students are learning the content, which by this point varies by several topics. Once test data is acquired ‘We don’t delay. We do something for those students who don’t meet expectations.’ The high school also has before, after and Saturday hours to help tutor students who need extra help while accelerating the studies of higher level students. Reading and math are still a problem and a reading teacher is needed because this skill is used ‘“ and now taught ‘“ in all classes. ‘It’s a paradigm shift for teachers as methods and materials change,’ she said. ‘We are able to say we’re across the board proficient.’ Principal Derick Austin noted there are inconstancies because there are not four years of tests to compare available. All ninth graders retook the math EOCT last year but this year only those who fail must retake it. ‘The teachers are overwhelmed,’ said curriculum director Norma Greenwood. ‘They’re taking it bit by bit. Every school is going to be at a different stage according to their learners.’

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