Test scores improved for four out of five content areas examined by the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) for students in third through eighth grades, according to a release from the DeKalb County School District.
The scores were aggregated from results in all grades to produce an overall proficiency percentage. The results:
• Reading – increased by one percentage point to 89.2 percent
• English and Language Arts – increased by 0.2 percentage points to 84.9 percent
• Science – increased by 0.8 percentage points to 64.4 percent
• Social Studies – increased by 0.4 percentage points to 67.4 percent
• Mathematics – decreased by 1.3 percentage points to 70.6 percent
“I am extremely proud of the students, parents and educators who contributed to the improvement in our districtwide scores,” said Michael Thurmond, district superintendent. “Our growth and achievement model strategy is working. We focused our resources [on] a districtwide effort to help our students master the content of the subject matter. We understand that growth and achievement, teaching and learning is our business.”
According to the release, the decrease in math score can be attributed to a new, more rigorous CRCT test in that area.
Thurmond said that to increase the mathematics score, as well as to further increase the percentage of students proficient in other areas, the district will increase tutoring and resources for teachers. There will be a special focus on science, social studies and math, as the lowest-proficient areas.
“We will be increasing professional learning and development for our teachers, we will encourage parents to better support their children, and we will make resources available to make sure if that there is need for tutorial, that will be available to students that need it,” Thurmond said.
Fourth-grade social studies and math teacher Celeste Maye said that while she doesn’t teach to the test, she bases her curriculum on what is likely to appear on the end-of-year exams. She also uses technology in her Wynbrooke Elementary classroom to measure students’ progress throughout the year.
“Data drives my instruction, period,” she said. “We usually take an assessment every six to eight weeks to see if they improve on those skills. On a weekly basis we look at the data to determine what groups to put students in. Then, we have a group lesson, but differentiate to the students’ needs during center activities.”
Maye said she is appreciative of the district’s emphasis on continuing education, including weekend workshops where they learn how to better engage students. She said that improving scores starts with enthusiasm for the lessons.
“Teachers need to do more hands-on activities and make the math applicable to life skills,” Maye said. “Our math is very relevant, and they can see how they use it in everyday life and it piques their interest. My instruction is fun and engaging, and we use a lot of technology and make it interesting. I am teaching and the kids are enjoying and because they enjoy it, that learning is being maintained.”
Next year, DeKalb will move away from the CRCT tests to a new system called Georgia Milestones, that will use one program across grades three through 12 instead of separate tests, according to the district release. The test will require students to show their thought process before coming to an answer, rather than just a fact or solution.
Thurmond said that the new test will bring challenges but that the district has already started to prepare.
“It will be a challenge and opportunity for all the stakeholders,” he said. “It’s something exciting we have begun to work on that we are still fleshing out. We began as soon as we were informed testing would be changing.”
Maye said her approach to teaching likely will not change, as she already requires her students to show extensive work before accepting a correct answer.
“I have already been using that type of method,” she said. “Students draw models, show their work and explain. They should be ready for the test, and they will do very well.”
This article originally appeared in The Champion Newspaper.