In midst of tumultuous times, children remained the focus for some

June 28, 2013 

The Bibb County school system, for all of the upheaval, is on a roll. In April, the board coaxed former Central High School Principal Steve Smith out of retirement to become the system’s interim superintendent. In May, a team of evaluators recommended the system for reaccreditation, albeit with a special monitoring team to address the system’s fairly obvious leadership issues. This week, the system received notice that its students did better on the 2013 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

In reading, there were across the board increases over 2012 results. Third grade results are particularly encouraging with a jump of 5.7 percentage points. In math, students showed improvement on four grade levels, with fourth- and sixth-grade students improving by more than 5 percentage points and fifth-grade students gaining 11.8 percentage points. Eighth-grade student scores were up by 10.2 percentage points. Social studies test results showed better than 2012 at all grade levels and science scores were better in four of the tested grades. English and language arts were basically flat when compared to 2012.

While these results are only preliminary, none of this could have occurred without the hard work of teachers, principals and staff. The administration and school board can set the course, but the difficult work of lifting and trimming the sails falls to others who receive much of the blame for failure and too little credit for success.

This is not to say the Bibb system has arrived. No, there is much work to be done. The system still lags behind state testing averages, an area of no concern to nearby counties such as Houston-- its students exceeded statewide averages in every area. But even little improvements are cause for celebration because even while the Bibb school board was in tumult, the children were being taught effectively.

Now it’s time for the systems to use the CRCT data as it is intended -- to tweak curriculum as they did in Peach County by teaching science and math every day instead of in blocks where one subject is taught for a few weeks and then the other. Once the data has been disaggregated, it can be used to measure an individual student’s strengths and weaknesses and help teachers address those weaknesses.

The results are also a reminder that a school system’s business should be about what’s best for the children attending. Every other concern is secondary if it does not add to their opportunities for future success.

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