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Fair Street School puts pause on IB program, will refocus on state standards
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Ronda Larned, front left, works with Jonathan Baltazar, and Debra Storey, rear right, helps Augustin Vazquez with letters, colors and shapes Monday at Fair Street School. The kindergarten students are at the school for three days this week as an acclimation period. - photo by RON BRIDGEMAN

Fair Street School will change its focus this year — placing its emphasis on the Georgia Milestones and “pausing” on its International Baccalaureate program.

The Gainesville Board of Education approved that change — on the recommendation of the school’s governance council and principal — at its June 18 meeting.

“Our No. 1 goal is to improve student achievement,” Principal William Campbell said, explaining the change.

The school’s name will also change. It will be Fair Street International Academy, the letter to the board said.

The school’s change will reflect a similar move in 2012, Campbell said. That pause in IB emphasis led to a spike in the school’s standardized test scores, he said.

The school scored 70.7 in the 2013 results. In the two years of scores since then, Fair Street has had scores of 55.3 and 50.9. Test scores that are reported for 2015 are from the spring of 2014 — each year’s score is lagging by a year.

For the 2015 results — 2014 tests — Fair Street was the only Gainesville elementary school to score under 70. The district score was 68.3. In the 2013 results, when Fair Street had its spike, the district average was 74.1.

The single-year high in test results also came while the students were in the transition between the old and the new Fair Street buildings. Campbell said the students were in the Wood’s Mill facility for more than two years while the new building was built.

After the 2012 testing, the school returned to its IB curriculum. Campbell noted he was not sure “if we knew to attribute the growth (in scores)” to the change from IB. The new building was opened in the fall of 2013.

The school has a heavy population of low-income students.

The change, Campbell emphasized, will give the school a “singular focus.”

However, the international aspects of the school also will continue.

“That’s become a part of our blood at Fair Street,” he said.

He noted the culture for international learning is good for any school. Campbell cited two examples: Comparing the U.S. Civil War to other countries’ civil wars and citing heroes in the U.S. that have international flavor, such as Cesar Chavez.

He added that the IB curriculum emphasizes such traits as collaboration, critical thinking, tolerance and respect for other ideas.

“They don’t belong to IB,” Campbell said. “That’s just good stuff you teach people.”

He added part of the “international” flavor and heritage at the school is “reminding kids that the world is a big place.” That will continue, he said.

“We spent quite some time coming up with that name,” he said, and retaining the “international.”

He pointed out the flags from around the world up and down the main hall at the school.

The change “is not a knock against the (IB) program. It’s a great program,” Campbell said.

He said the school faculty and governance council have talked about a change “for over a year.”

The teachers overwhelmingly favor focusing on the state standards, he said.

Generally, teachers have said the change would mean they can “focus on what we’re being assessed on,” Campbell said.

Campbell said the Gainesville district also is focused on the state standards, and the state provides assistance for schools that will be helpful.

The change also saves Fair Street money. Campbell said it would have been $8,200 this year to be in the program.

The school has used the IB curriculum for more than a decade, he said, and the school and its faculty have changed considerably in that time.

“The things that are going to be different are not going to be noticeable,” Campbell said.

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