Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Shouts and Murmurs: Test scores reflect school’s efforts

June 15, 2005

Tammie George's enthusiasm is evident.

George, the assistant principal at Tonganoxie Elementary School and the district's curriculum director, has worked for four years to raise student test scores.

This year, she saw results.

Each year, in each school building -- elementary school, junior high and high school -- one grade level takes a proficiency test in reading, math, science or social studies.

After years of meeting the state's averages, this year, the elementary school test scores topped the state average and met the state's standard of excellence category in all four subjects.

And at the high school and junior high, students topped the state average in social studies and came within less than a point of topping the state's average in reading, as well.

George sees this as a trend. It's a result, she said, of specific actions the district has taken.

She is quick to credit former school board member Terri Needham. Needham is a former teacher, as well.

"Terri Needham is really the person that got this all going," George said. "She said we needed to focus more on our curriculum and said we should have a curriculum audit. I think she deserves part of the credit for pointing the board in the right direction."

The direction included taking the advice offered by the firm the school district hired to audit the curriculum. The audit was completed four years ago.

"We've been taking basically one curriculum area at a time to focus on," George said. "Now we've gone through the process of aligning our curriculum with each of the four major subject areas -- that's something that had never been done in this district before."

In doing so, teachers and administrators make sure that everything is taught to students at the grade levels that they need to know it.

"It's making sure that you go to more and more difficult tasks or skills as they (the students) get older, but you also build on what they've been taught previously," George said.

Her work has included taking in-depth looks at existing test scores, George said.

For instance, when the state returns scores, the reading scores are broken into four areas -- narrative, expository, technical and persuasive.

"We've been using those in the past to look at where we were weak and what we need to do differently," George said. "We will continue doing that."

And, it helped this year when the state released test questions that are no longer being used.

"We could use those as practice with our students to get ready for the assessment," George said.

George said she's appreciated the school board's interest in raising test scores, especially in the curriculum area.

She said teachers who work on the curriculum committee have been allowed specific time to meet.

"That's been so valuable and so important to us," George said.

She recalls when she was asked to work on the curriculum project.

"I said, 'We'll see change, it will be slow and we'll see change,'" George said. "I feel that we're finally starting to see the fruits of our labor."

George stressed the project has been a team effort, with staff, teachers and administrators being on board.

"It's just very exciting, the huge jump we've made in the last few years," George said. "This compares to Olathe and Blue Valley schools, things like that where they make the standard of excellence. I'm just very proud of the work that it's taken to get there."

And chances are, the children who see their test scores rise, and their parents, and the community, are proud of the results, as well.


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