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Educators balance new CRCT deadlines with furlough days
Riverbend Elementary School fifth-graders Nicole Hall, left, 11, and Jordan Walker, 10, read over spelling bee words Thursday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Hall County elementary and middle school students will take the state standardized test one week earlier than initially planned, but district leaders say the shift will not greatly affect students and teachers.

In anticipation of more state-ordered teacher furlough days, the district moved the start of its Criterion-Referenced Competency Test up from April 27 to April 20 to preserve the district's plan to administer CRCT retests during the last week of school.

Depending on grade level, the CRCT tests students on math, reading, language arts, science and social studies. It is a primary indicator for schools in Adequate Yearly Progress determinations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Hall County schools took three furlough days in the fall semester. Like all Georgia districts facing state budget cuts, Hall is bracing for up to seven furlough days this spring semester, which is the most allowable under current state law.

Eloise Barron, Hall's assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said the changed testing dates mean five days less instruction time.

"It's not that much of an impact on us because we know now and can prepare," Barron said. "... The main thing is we are going ahead and starting that focused instruction a week earlier."

The focused instruction hones in on students who may be at risk of failing the CRCT. Teachers are able to zero in on their weaknesses and provide additional instruction to better prepare them for the state test.

Barron said the extra week after the test is given allows the district enough time to evaluate test results, provide more instruction for failing students regardless of furloughs and then retest students during school days from May 18 to 20.

Gerald Boyd, school improvement specialist for Hall schools, said the district saved $1.5 million last school year when it reworked its summer CRCT retesting program to operate within the last weeks of school.

The Hall County Board of Education approved April 2, April 12, May 7, May 10 and May 21 as potential furlough days if the state orders more.

Barron said if the district did not designate some days prior to the last weeks of school to be taken as furloughs, there would be a chance that the last week of school would have to be cut if furloughs were ordered.

"If they did that, it would mess up our whole plan to deliver summer school during the school year," she said.

Barron said parents and students are not likely to be affected by testing date changes.

Boyd said this CRCT administration may be the first where all questions are aligned with the curriculum. He said teachers are adapting well to the slightly altered timeline.

"They may have to adjust the pace a little bit, but not a whole lot, quite frankly," he said. "We'll make sure we get all of the standards in before the test begins."

Gainesville Middle and elementary schools will begin administering the CRCT on April 19, according to the district Web site.

Barron said parents can best help their children prepare for the state test by feeding them well, helping them to get good sleep and getting them to school on time.

For tools to help your child study for the CRCT, visit Online Assessment System.