Principals lay out plans to improve schools

“We need meaningful assessment. Assessments are not tests. They’re not grades. Assessments give us information,” said Stribling, principal of Carysbrook Elementary which serves grade three and four. “When you take assessments with teacher insight and dedication, that leads to meaningful instruction.”

“If we don’t look at data, then we can’t drive instruction,” said Farquharson, principal of the middle school. “At the beginning of the year there were a lot of conversations about whether or not we’re testing kids too much. If we don’t test, we don’t know what we need to teach. If we start off the year and we don’t do a pre-assessment, we’re just randomly throwing things out. We need to know what we need to spend just a little bit of time on and what we’re going to spend a lot of time on.”

A slew of acronyms were thrown at the school board including MAP, IA, AIMSweb, LDS, and RTI, each of these representing an assessment, monitoring program, or intervention used with students.

While the recent focus on literacy in third and fourth grade has paid off, making English SOL pass rates increase, the new focus will be on math and science. Only 50 percent of Fluvanna fifth graders passed the math SOL this year.

“The SOL tests have gotten harder, we need to adjust our expectations,” said Carysbrook teacher Jennifer Flood. Flood will be using a new mathematics curriculum called ‘Math Investigations’ which will focus on hands-on learning.

“Children will be developing their own survey question, test their survey question, and go out to collect data,” said Flood. “Then they will determine what’s the best way to present that data – should I used a bar graph, a line plot? What’s going to be best?”

In addition to concentrating on making test scores better, administrators have put a heavy emphasis on citizenship and personal responsibility. Some of the more creative rewards include hanging a golden plunger from the ceiling if students keep the bathrooms clean, or a golden broom in front of the classroom the janitors have deemed to be the best cared for by students.

“We have to teach expectations, not just expect children to behave,” said Carysbrook Assistant Principal Jen Valentine.

Farquharson echoed much of what the Carysbrook administrators had to say, but also mentioned her particular focus on ‘gap groups.’

“We know that there are disparities between our gap groups,” said Farquharson. “We want to make sure we’re catching our black students and students with disabilities and meeting and exceeding state and national academic expectations.”

School Board Member Bertha Armstrong asked for specific ways the school district is focusing on diversity issues. To which Brenda Gilliam, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, replied that the next October staff day will feature a presentation from Donna Ford from Vanderbilt University on “Creating Culturally Responsive Classrooms.” Administrators will also begin a book study on identifying and retaining minority students in gifted programs.

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