Archive for Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Grade school reaches standard of excellence

September 14, 2005

For schools, reaching the state's standard of excellence is like getting an A on a test.

That's why Tammie George, assistant principal of Tonganoxie Elementary School, was so thrilled with her school's test results.

On state assessment tests, student scores are ranked in five categories -- unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, advanced and exemplary.

If all the students score in the advanced and exemplary categories, the school is said to have reached standard of excellence.

In recent years, George has led a drive to advance students out of the lower three categories into the upper two.

Her efforts are paying off. Students are tested on reading, math, science and social studies.

"The elementary school had never had a standard of excellence on any test," George said. "We'd been very close but we never quite made it. But this year we received standard of excellence in all four areas, which is huge."

George said she and principal Jerry Daskoski learned the good news when school scores were posted on the state department of education Web site.

"We were just cheering," George said. "It was very exciting."

At Monday night's school board meeting, school principals told board members the results of last year's state assessments.

Daskoski credited the grade school's success with recent work in aligning curriculum with state standards throughout the district, a project led by George.

And, Daskoski said, it helped that last year the state retired a couple of assessment tests and shared them with schools to use as practice material.

George was quick to praise district teachers for their high-scoring students.

"It's really a tribute to the dedication and hard work of our staff," George said Tuesday. "They took the materials and the information that we gave them and worked very diligently with it to make a difference."

In the upper grades, the high school and junior high achieved the standard of excellence in social studies and nearly met it in reading and science.

But the junior high and high school students didn't fare as well in math.

George noted the junior high and high school met the state average scores in math.

"But we just didn't make standard of excellence," George said of the 7-12 math. "It might be like we got a B rating, but we didn't make an A."

THS Principal Tatia Shelton was pleased with her school's scores in social studies, reading and science.

"I wish I could say we had the same good news for the math department," she told school board members.

She said she planned to zero in on math this year, which she said could mean the school would do a better job of diagnosing what level students are at when they transfer in from another district. Shelton said high school math teachers have expressed an interest in attending a national math teacher conference in April. And, Shelton said, she plans to talk to other high schools that are meeting the standard of excellence to find out what they do differently.

And, she said, it could be the district needs to do more to help students improve their math skills.

"Somehow we've got to find time within our schedule to provide some tutorial service for our kids," Shelton said. "Summertime is not the time to do it. You've got to do it over an extended period of time."

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