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Richmond County looks widely for new ways to teach

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 10:47 PM
Last updated Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 12:48 AM
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Richmond County public schools have improved their academic performance in recent years, as measured by state test results. Yet by and large, they continue to trail state averages on many grade levels and in most subjects.

Washington-Wilkes Middle School teacher Alex Moore helps a student outside of class at Washington-Wilkes Middle School.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/Staff
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/Staff
Washington-Wilkes Middle School teacher Alex Moore helps a student outside of class at Washington-Wilkes Middle School.

Washington-Wilkes Mid­dle School in Washington, Ga., recently identified as one of 12 “successful middle schools” by the Georgia Part­nership for Excellence in Education, might be a model for Richmond County middle schools to imitate.

Virginia Bradshaw, Rich­mond County’s executive director for middle schools, said district staffers look for good practices wherever they can.

"We are constantly learning from the good work being done in other middle schools, and I cannot name one middle school in Georgia that we look to as a model to emulate," she said. "We participate in (Southern Asso­­ciation of Colleges and Schools) reviews and GAPSS (Geor­gia Assessment of Per­formance Standards for Schools) reviews across the state and Southern region, including our schools. Each of our schools has its strengths, which are shared regularly in our professional learning communities."

Washington-Wilkes has made the “adequate yearly progress” benchmark under the federal No Child Left Behind Act since at least the 2005-06 school year. It typically exceeds state average passing rates on Criterion-Refer­enced Compe­tency Tests in reading and math.

Richmond County middle schools generally have shown growth on CRCT reading and math tests, with the exception of eighth-grade math. For example, Murphey Middle Charter School’s eighth-grade math passing rate fell from 65 percent in 2007 to 48 percent in 2010, while the state rate rose from 81 percent to 83 percent. Washington-Wilkes’ rate held steady at 85 percent during the same period.

For the most part, Rich­mond County middle schools fall short of the state average. Tutt Middle School is a notable exception, beating the state passing rate in sixth-grade reading in 2007, 2009 and 2010; seventh-grade reading in 2010; and eighth-grade reading in 2008. Tutt’s eighth-graders also tied the state
reading passing rate in 2010.

The only other Richmond County middle schools that beat the state average pass rate in reading in the past four years were Hephzibah, Langford and Morgan Road. No Richmond County middle schools met or exceeded the state average in math in that period.

Contrast that with Wash­ington-Wilkes. In math, its sixth-graders topped the state rate in 2007, 2008 and 2009; seventh-graders did in 2008; and eighth-graders did in all four years. In reading, seventh-graders beat the state pass rate in 2009 and 2010; and eighth-graders did in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

Bradshaw said Richmond County constantly examines what it can do to improve student achievement, most recently putting more of an emphasis on increasing literacy and having students engage in work that requires analytical skills.

"Research suggests that to improve in these areas is the most efficient and effective way to improve student learning across the curriculum,” she said. “We are also working to increase the amount of class time students are engaged in critical thinking and gain a better balance of time spent in acquiring knowledge and actually applying knowledge to solve problems first in familiar context and then creatively in an unfamiliar context."

Washington-Wilkes educators take the recent statewide recognition in stride. They don’t consider themselves a model until they go to statewide education conferences and find out they are ahead of many other school systems in such areas as implementing the Com­mon Core Standards, which are considered more rigorous than the current Georgia Perf­ormance Standards and which will be required to be taught in all state public schools in the 2012-13 school year.

Reading teacher Joni Kei­ser attended a Common Core conference in August and was surprised at where Wilkes County stood.

“Everything they talked about, we were already doing it,” Keiser said.

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Craig Spinks
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Craig Spinks 11/06/11 - 12:28 am
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As coincidence would have it,

As coincidence would have it, my wife and I lunched with my cousin Steve Blackmon of Washington there on Friday. When Steve noted his county's public schools' successes, I cautioned the importance of the validity of the criteria used in the determination of school excellence(As an aside, our late cousin Fred Blackmon, Sr. of Thomson, was an uncompromising force for excellence in GAPUBED for over 40 years.).

I am at present attempting to obtain from the WCBOE their Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) results. The school systems' results on this nationally-recognized and -validated measure will give a much more accurate assessment of the Reading, Math and Writing skills of Wilkes County kids than those taxpayer-funded jokes, the CRCT and GHSGT series.

ugamich
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ugamich 11/06/11 - 09:25 am
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Our success has more to do

Our success has more to do with discipline and accountability than state mandated tests. We are successful because what we do is a community effort. We have good kids who aren't allowed to make excuses----that is why they are successful in school. When you have a disciplined system, it leaves little room for nonsense in the classroom. Plus, unlike most other schools, our administrators trust us to teach, and they don't question us when it comes to managing our classrooms. Kudos to WWMS:)

seenitB4
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seenitB4 11/06/11 - 09:40 am
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ugamich sez We have good kids

ugamich sez

We have good kids who aren't allowed to make excuses----that is why they are successful in school. When you have a disciplined system, it leaves little room for nonsense in the classroom

Thankyou for good old country common sense.....btw..I'm married to a country boy from that area......great big town of Sharon Ga.

noamsain
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noamsain 11/06/11 - 03:43 pm
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Richmond County is too busy

Richmond County is too busy with "busy work" to worry about improving scores...they have students go to "intervention every morning for 30 minutes, where they are taught math by teachers who have don't even have math certification; P.E coaches, music teachers, social studies, language arts teachers, teach math....and they wonder why their scores are so awful....
In addition, had a teacher tell me the other day that they have to "advise" students on feel good topics the first Friday of every month, and everyone does it...the lunchroom lady, the custodian, all "advise" the kids.....oh yeah, don't dare give them homework and threaten to grade it.....county won't back you on that one either....so, if they aren't held accountable for homework, how much of it gets done? Time for some serious changes in RCBOE and the downtown out of touch crowd....throw your current board members out and start over....and get these stupid ideas out of school and teach like we used to have to do to learn-"get back to the basics and get rid of the feel good stuff....and have MATH teachers teach MATH...even remediation periods if needed.

class1
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class1 11/06/11 - 11:27 pm
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noamsain-well said!

noamsain-well said!

Reverie
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Reverie 11/13/11 - 12:15 pm
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Bradshaw says, "We are also

Bradshaw says, "We are also working to increase the amount of class time students are engaged in critical thinking and gain a better balance of time spent in acquiring knowledge and actually applying knowledge to solve problems first in familiar context and then creatively in an unfamiliar context." For many years the RCSS's mantra has been to teach flawed Georgia Performance Standards using a flawed standards based classroom model. Now they want to go beyond and be analytical when they can't even get the knowledge part right? Where is all of this time coming from? Our school system's educational leadership doesn't have a clue, they have risen to a new level of incompetency. Any technique or strategy can be a "best practice" if the teachers implementing it are highly motivated. RCSS has killed the spirit of innovative teaching. Teachers are cookie cutout clones. There is great pride at the top about the way all of their classes and teachers are the same. By the way, speaking of actually applying knowledge to solve problems, why doesn't RCSS require a rigorous senior project similar to CCSS? Common standards leads to common teaching leads to common students. I want something better than that for RC students. The world is leaving us behind. I'm convinced that educators are the stupidest people in the room.

seenitB4
72520
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seenitB4 11/13/11 - 12:25 pm
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Just a few suggestions... Why

Just a few suggestions...
Why not have 8-5pm schooldays...that would keep some out of trouble in the evening hours..& they NEED it.
Why not put the returning vets in the school halls & rooms & control some of the out-of-control nonesense...& also put them on the buses too..we have a lot of vets looking for jobs...if the $$$ went for these 2 things I would be happy to pay a little more in tax.

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