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Schools to look at data, improvements

COVINGTON -- Newton County school officials and educators are analyzing a lot of data to help improve their schools.

After receiving the Newton County School System's Adequate Yearly Progress results over the summer -- which showed that eight of its 23 schools and the entire system as a whole failed to meet state performance requirements -- they began delving into data from tests like the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and Georgia High School Graduation tests.

"We started really scaling back the results," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews during Tuesday night's monthly work session of the Newton County Board of Education.

Linda Hayden, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said that Testing Director Carl Skinner is disaggregating data by school, grade, domain and subgroups. Additionally, individual schools are drilling down into the data even further by teachers and students.

"We will know exactly what each individual student needs to cover to pass the CRCT in the (critical areas of) reading and math," Hayden said.

Mathews said officials are meeting with leadership teams and principals to discuss their school results and set goals.

"Unless you know the kids who need intervention, we can't intervene on their behalf," Mathews said, adding that professional development activities also will be created to assist in the effort.

He said improvement will take some time.

"I don't think we will turn around over night," he said. "There is not a magic bullet."

School board member Eddie Johnson said he hopes irrelevant new programs won't be created, but he also doesn't want to continue on the same path.

"Our results don't reflect the kind of results that we expect," Johnson said during the meeting. "I'm kind of disappointed in what we've been doing."

Mathews said he hasn't discussed any new programs being implemented to assist -- he'd rather enhance educators' skills and focus on a data-driven approach.

"Observations show that we aren't always doing the best practices to the levels that we must," Mathews said. "We've got to pay attention ... and work for the kids."

He said this may include focusing more on technology, which kids in today's society respond to well, and also improve, monitor and provide more feedback to teachers.

"We're talking about improving schools," he said.

Because of this year's and previous year's testing scores, Middle Ridge Elementary and Indian Creek Middle schools were on the state's Needs Improvement List and had to provide school choice for its students Eight students took advantage of school choice this year.

Additionally, the Elementary and Secondary Education Assistance Act of 1965 requires that Ficquett and Middle Ridge elementary schools and Cousins and Indian Creek middle schools provide options of supplemental educational services to students. The schools plan to hold information sessions for families to discuss the materials, which are covered by Title 1 funding.