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Some Gainesville, Hall elementary schools buck state trend as test scores go up
Systems still lag state average
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Some Hall County and Gainesville schools bucked a state trend of steep drops in elementary school performance on the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index,though the local school systems as a whole still lagged behind the state average.

Ten of Hall’s 20 elementary schools and two in Gainesville saw increases in their scores from 2015 to 2016, while the state elementary average dropped from 76 to 71.7.

The CCRPI measures how well Georgia students are being prepared for the next educational level.

Those elementary schools in Hall with jumps were Lula, Chestnut Mountain, Lyman Hall, Myers, Riverbend, Tadmore, Wauka Mountain, Spout Springs, World Language and White Sulphur, while Gainesville’s Fair Street and Centennial saw improvements.

Hall County’s overall elementary average ticked up from 67.9 to 68. Gainesville’s elementary average dropped from 68.3 to 66.4. 

Kevin Bales, Hall County’s executive director for school improvement, said the county’s elementary schools have gone from about 9 percentage points off the state average to 3.7 within the past few years.

“We’re excited about that because it bodes well for middle and high school going forward,” Bales said.

He said the district was particularly encouraged to see gains at North Hall Middle School and Spout Springs and White Sulphur elementary schools.

Meanwhile, Hall’s high schools, at 77.9, outpace the state’s high school average by 2.2 percentage points, and Hall’s middle schools, at 74.5, are 3 percentage points ahead of the state’s middle school average.

Gainesville’s elementary schools dropped by 1.9 percentage points overall, compared with the state average drop of 4.3 among elementary schools.

Shea Ray, director of data and student assessment for Gainesville City Schools, said the fact results came almost halfway through the next school year makes it hard to base major decisions off the assessment.

“While the CCRPI does give us a snapshot of how we’re doing, it’s not the only data point we can use,” Ray said.

Instead, she said, it helps facilitate discussions about how schools can improve.

East Hall High School was the lone high school with an increase, as the state high school average dropped from 75.8 to 75.7.

Overall, Georgia schools saw a drop from 75.5 to 73.6 in 2016.

North Hall Middle made a 4 percentage point increase from 78 to 82, and C.W. Davis was the only other middle school in either local system to have a bump.

Theresa London, principal at Lula Elementary, said her teachers have “tried to focus on helping students look at open-ended questions” as those became more prevalent with the implementation of the Georgia Milestones instead of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, or CRCT.

Fair Street Principal William Campbell’s school saw a jump from 50.9 to 55.1 in 2016, one of two Gainesville schools to make an improvement. The school saw its numbers go up in English/language arts and social studies.

“We’re proud of that,” Campbell said. “And we also recognize that we still have room to grow.”

Campbell credited the school’s emphasis on state standards, a shift from its International Baccalaureate focus, for the rising scores.

He pointed to an “audacious goal” that students will grow by three years of reading proficiency in the next two years, and the school hired a reading coach, Leslie Jost, this school year to help with that goal.

Ray said Centennial’s improvement was especially encouraging as it was designated a “focus” school by the state a year earlier because of the large gap between its lowest achieving students and the state’s lowest achieving students. She attributed that progress to a “laser focus” in teaching, particularly in English/language arts and math.

North Hall High School saw the sharpest drop of any Hall or Gainesville school, going from the best in the area at 89.2 to 80. North Hall Principal Jamey Moore said the information “gives us some areas to target that we can work on” but that the school’s AP test scores, International Baccalaureate test scores and graduation rates remain strong. He noted the decrease wasn’t due to a major drop in performance but because of a lack of year-over-year progress measured by the test.

“The teachers are working really hard. This is just one measure,” Moore said. “We’re proud of the work our teachers are doing. We’re proud of the work our students are doing.”

 

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