Dalton Public Schools celebrates strides on spring tests

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Dalton Public Schools staff and members of the Board of Education along with officials from Carroll Daniel Construction prepare for the groundbreaking ceremony for Hammond Creek Middle School in January 2019. The school's construction is 83% complete, the "interior is moving along, and the exterior is looking good," said Palmer Griffin, vice chairman of the school board.

Though students in the state didn't take the Georgia Milestones tests this spring due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Dalton Public Schools students made "tremendous gains" on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests from winter to spring, Superintendent Tim Scott said.

Scott made the comment during a meeting of the Dalton Board of Education. He said the MAP results suggest there would be major improvements on the Georgia Milestones if students had taken those tests.

"I'm disappointed we didn't get to test this year on Georgia Milestones," a comprehensive summative assessment pro‚Äčgram from the Georgia Department of Education that spans grades three through high school, said Lisa Edwards, coordinator of data analysis and school improvement for Dalton Public Schools. "The signs were pointing way up."

MAP measures growth in math, reading, language arts and science, according to Wiley Dailey, deputy superintendent for school improvement and data analysis. The tests are administered three times a year.

Brookwood School met or exceeded its growth goals in all four measures of MAP for the spring tests, Edwards said. Brookwood's reading result was especially impressive, at 125% of its spring goal.

Brookwood, an elementary school, followed the steps of its strategic plan and worked on truly understanding the data, said Principal Meleia Bridenstine. Educators built student comprehension of test questions via close reading, and concentrated on two areas they knew needed work: vocabulary and fractions.

City Park School's language arts growth was 104% of the elementary school's spring goal.

"Goal setting was the number one thing," said Principal Kim Rhyne. Teachers met with each of their students to discuss their winter MAP scores, set realistic goals, and chart courses for improvement.

At Dalton High School, spring math scores on MAP were 184% of the school's spring goal.

The school devoted a significant portion of Title I (federal assistance for students from low-income families) funds to helping staff study and understand data, said Stephanie Hungerpiller, an assistant principal who will take over for retiring principal Steve Bartoo this summer. The school also took a look at "making sure the lessons we're providing are on target with the standards." Educators also had conferences with students about MAP data, and "we plan to continue that," Hungerpiller said. Among other benefits, "it helps them with goal setting."

Another elementary school, Westwood School, saw a science score of 146% of its spring goal, and goal setting was pivotal, said Principal Scott Ehlers. Additionally, "instructional coaches helped out a lot, and (we) looked at how what they learn in kindergarten impacts what they learn in grades four and five."

No school saw as towering of a result related to its goal as Morris Innovative High School did in math, where the school charted 190% of its goal for the spring, Edwards said. "They blew it out of the (water)."

Math teacher Freddy Fuentes credited those focused on data, like Dailey and Edwards, calling them "amazing," as well as the feedback provided by various tests, for the leap in math at Morris. He's also been coaching other math teachers at the school, and they critique one another.

"We tape, and then help each other improve," said Fuentes, who was named Dalton Public Schools Teacher of the Year in 2019. At first, the recordings were admittedly "awkward," but turned out to be "quite a joy."

New grading for fifth grade

Beginning in the 2020-21 academic year, Dalton Public Schools' fifth-graders will also receive specific rather than general numerical grades for their level of mastery of state standards, Scott said. Previously, students from kindergarten through grade five received numbers of one, two or three as evaluations, but by also attaching a more specific number, such as 80, 87, 95, etc., students will begin to think in those terms, smoothing the transition to middle school, where they will receive those types of marks as grades.

Both of those numbers will begin appearing on evaluations for fifth-graders for the 2020-21 academic term, Scott said. However, the second numbers won't become an "official" part of grades for fifth-graders until the second semester, which begins in January.

Hammond Creek update

Hammond Creek, a school for students in grades six and seven that will open for the 2021-22 academic year, is 83% complete, the "interior is moving along, and the exterior is looking good," said Palmer Griffin, the vice chairman of the school board who visited Hammond Creek on June 8. The Junior Achievement Discovery Center on that campus is already more than 25% complete.

Hammond Creek is on property across U.S. 41/the north bypass from Dalton Middle School.

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