CORRECTION -- An earlier version of this story misstated who will be the new principal of Bloomfield Middle School. Brenda Edwards will be the principal. A corrected version is below.
When Bibb County schools open Friday, most students will notice slightly shorter days, different start and dismissal times and, for some, new principals.
The Bibb County school district has axed extended days for most students. In most schools this academic year, school days will be extended for teachers only, as students go back to normal hours.
Extended days for teachers are an effort to increase professional learning. State officials reported that professional learning needed improvement in Bibb schools, as part of the Georgia Assessment of Performance on School Standards.
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The additional professional learning will help educators “modify their school improvement plans to include strategies to address deficiencies in the GAPSS study,” Interim Superintendent Steve Smith said.
Since school days are no longer extended, start and dismissal times will change for students. Officials urge parents to visit the school system’s website, www.bibb.k12.ga.us, and click the back-to-school information link for a list of school start and dismissal times.
Some students will find new principals at their schools. As part of sweeping staff changes, principals at several schools were reshuffled, and some new principals were hired. The school board recently approved the following principal changes: Chanelle Sweet-White at the Academy of Excellence at Barden Elementary School; Chad Thompson at Bernd Elementary School; Eddie McCloud at Burghard Elementary School; Shandra Yarbrough at Jones Elementary School; Kim Reining-Gray at Porter Elementary School; Sara Carlson at Skyview Elementary School; LaLisa Burston at Union Elementary School; Lindsey Allen at Howard Middle School; Shannon Norfleet at Howard High School; and Brenda Edwards at Bloomfield Middle School.
Also, as part of the fiscal 2015 budget, all schools will have assistant principals. In the past, some elementary schools shared assistant principals.
‘Constantly change tests’
While Bibb schools bring in new leaders and increase professional development, teachers face a learning curb as a new state test is rolled out this spring.
The Georgia Milestones will be consistent across all grades and will replace the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and the End of Course Tests. The exam, which will be aligned with the new Common Core standards, will be more rigorous, with fewer multiple choice and more essay questions.
While advancement is important, so many changes can be difficult and frustrating for educators, Smith said.
“I’m a little frustrated that every four or five years we’re changing curriculum, we’re changing tests. It takes a while not only for teachers, but for students to become confident and comfortable in administering and taking new tests,” he said. “It’s really difficult for us to measure the increase in students’ knowledge -- and also measure the work of teachers -- when we constantly change tests.”
Hopefully, the new tests will better measure students’ depth of knowledge, he said.
During Houston County schools’ opening session, Superintendent Mark Scott partially concentrated on the new statewide exam. Additionally, he spoke about the school system’s focus on Advanced Placement classes with the help of a national grant, said Beth McLaughlin, spokeswoman for Houston County schools.
The National Math and Science Initiative grant is entering its second year with Houston schools. The three-year, $2.8 million is geared toward increasing student participation and achievement in AP math, science and English classes.
So far, AP enrollment has jumped 85 percent in five high schools. The grant offers financial incentives to students who pass AP exams and to teachers whose students have high pass rates. Soon, the school system will present checks to teachers -- the highest single check totaling $4,900, McLaughlin said. Students also get $100 for each test they pass.
‘It gives us flexibility’
In Bibb County, one school will undergo an academic change this year, as it switches to a charter school. The former Hutchings Career Center is now the Hutchings College and Career Academy. The state Board of Education approved the switch in June.
While students will continue to specialize in trade studies and take technical college courses, the charter will allow the school to hire industry professionals as teachers and offer more advanced courses.
“It gives us flexibility with the curriculum,” Hutchings principal Darrick McCray said. “We can actually generate some courses under the charter status that normally we wouldn’t be able to get the seat time for.”
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.