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New Holland school aims to improve
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Gainesville City Schools officials on Monday discussed how to meet federal testing targets this year, specifically for New Holland Core Knowledge Academy.

The school was the only in the system to miss the mark last year on No Child Left Behind standards. Each year, the state Department of Education looks at the results of standardized tests to determine if schools have made Adequate Yearly Progress.

Under AYP, schools must meet targets in demographic groups with 30 or more students, such as special education or those on the free or reduced-price lunch program. Each subgroup at New Holland had passed the CRCT test with the exception of 12 English language learners, Dyer said.

The school has taken several improvement steps this year, including re-assigning English language teachers to grade levels that match their teaching strengths to student needs, Dyer said.

School board member Sammy Smith asked New Holland Principal Pam Wood if there were any resources the school needed.

"Not at this point. This year there is more accountability, not just in the (English language learner) group but for all groups," Wood said. "We're looking at any gaps there are so we can intervene quickly."

She said school officials set up professional learning committees, which meet regularly, to ensure all students are on target.

"We didn't think a new program is what was necessary," Wood said, adding that the school looked at other interventions.

Schools that don't make the cut for two years face consequences and are placed on a "needs improvement" list, requiring them to offer programs such as after-school tutoring.

Dyer said last year, New Holland had the district's highest number of English language learning students. She explained the school had the most open space for grades third, fourth and fifth.

Dyer said the Gainesville system is taking action to monitor enrollment for various subgroups at each school.

The Pioneer Regional Educational Service Agency, which provides support to 14 school systems, is helping Gainesville schools ramp up their efforts.

Better monitoring will help the district understand the percentage of students from each subgroup needed to pass the standardized tests, Dyer said.

In other business Monday, the board passed a motion to allow student trips to Gov.-elect Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's inauguration ceremony to be an excused absence. The ceremony is Jan. 10.

"Deal and Cagle are from this community and it would be a wonderful learning opportunity," Smith said.

School board chairman David Syfan said he was concerned it would be difficult to verify the students had attended.

"Parents will write a note if their child is attending," Dyer said.

The idea passed 4-1, with board member Delores Diaz voting against it.

Smith described the action as a "good faith gesture" toward the politicians, that students would be encouraged to attend the inaugural ceremony.


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