By Cody Neff
Test scores are mostly on the rise in Fayette County, officials said in a Local School Improvement Council (LSIC) meeting on Monday.
Four schools in Fayette County presented progress reports for their facilities and what they are doing to improve weak spots.
At Ansted Elementary, one teacher said the school has tried, and succeeded, at making things better across the board.
“The good news is we rock,” Brenda Cooper said. “Our test scores are phenomenal. Our main focus this year is our discipline. We’re trying to make a safe, calm environment for our students to live and work in. This year we’re really working hard on discipline and we’re starting to see it pay off.
“Our test scores have improved astronomically. When we looked at the state’s website the other day, we saw that we are two years above where the state expects us to be. We’re extremely excited about that.
“Across the board from 2011 to 2012 is a huge jump. Those aren’t the same kids. Our fourth graders doubled the percentage getting mastery in math. They went from 15 percent to 29 percent. Our third graders went up 22 percentage points and that puts us above the county and above the state.”
Fayette County Superintendent Keith Butcher said he wishes Ansted Elementary could have the chance to shed its title of being a priority school, but the title was given based on old scores.
“Ansted Elementary remains a ‘priority’ school, but that designation was made on last year’s test scores,” Butcher said. “If it had been based on this year’s scores, that would have been a different designation for that school. All of us at the board, when we saw this year’s test scores, were extremely ecstatic over their hard work and the progress that they’ve made with their students.”
Cooper says the school also got some new paint, both inside and out.
“We painted the cafeteria and some of the halls,” Cooper said. “We’ve done some painting on the outside as well. Things had gotten all dingy and dark, so we decided we’d brighten things up.”
As far as Divide Elementary goes, the principal said they are seeing some improvement in test scores too.
“In math for fourth grade, we increased by 6 percent proficiency in our math scores,” Steve Rhodes said. “In fifth grade, the percentage went up 5 percent.”
“For reading, our third grade proficiency was 44 percent and we tied the state. For fourth grade, we dropped in reading. We were above the state and the county scores, but still we want to work on those.”
Other upgrades at Divide Elementary include two new classrooms, a safe school entrance and a new heating and cooling unit.
At Ansted Middle, the principal Victor Whitt said the students’ scores mostly improved, but they are working on areas that scores dropped in.
“For sixth through eighth grade math, our proficiency went up by six percent for each grade,” Whitt said. “We also had a 6 percent increase for our sixth grade reading scores and a 1 percent increase in our eighth grade scores, but we dropped 9 percent in our seventh grade reading scores. We’ve tried to work on collaboration between departments to improve those scores.
“The language arts and social studies departments worked together to send their students on a trip to Thurmond. Before they went on the trip to Thurmond, they did a lot of research and used what are called ‘primary sources’ ... Once the kids had that background, they actually went on a trip to Thurmond that was sponsored by the National Park Service.
“The kids took part in activities that were based on art, history, and music. The students had to write articles in social studies class and then they go to language arts classes and do their editing and their re-writes and their things like that.”
Midland Trail High School’s principal said the school has seen improved test scores and a lower drop-out rate.
“We have kept up with our scores,” Diane Blume said. “Our whole staff is doing some type of reading and writing in their curriculum areas. We focused where we’re weak in math.
“We focus on everyone in the building using math vocabulary so that students are comfortable in using it in any setting that they’re in. Around 72 percent of my freshmen scored at or above mastery in math. We are so proud of that number.”
Blume said the school has created several programs to help kids get the chance to graduate on time.
“Our dropout and graduation rate didn’t make the cut the year before last,” Blume said. “We took that very seriously. We started working with kids. For 2011-2012, we had 17 kids drop out of Midland Trail High School. Last year we had two.
“I attribute that to working with kids to do some academic recovery pieces. If you have a kid who fails the first nine weeks, they tend to give up. We’re working to get those kids caught up so they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which is graduation.”
Blume also says school officials have tried to lower the number of school days kids are missing.
“One of the biggest problems that we’ve had here is attendance,” Blume said. “We have been printing attendance reports that show, excused or unexcused, the total number of days that kids have missed. We’ll meet with a kid and say, ‘Do you realize that you’ve missed 14 days?’ They can’t believe it.
“Kids and parents don’t realize that a day here, a day here, and a day here adds up. They don’t understand that. Kids and parents need to realize that showing up is important to success.”
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