County schools go the extra mile to improve test scores

Special to Atmore News

Imagine if you sat down to take a standardized test and found a note of encouragement from Mom and Dad.
That was just one of the inspirational messages in Escambia County Elementary Schools as students in grades 2-8 took the ACAP (Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program) test, which grades children in English Language Arts, Reading, Math and Science.
Last year Flomaton Elementary had the county’s best score of 85 (which includes the city system), but there’s still room for improvement. This year Principal Courtney McBride is going beyond the three R’s taught in the classroom, holding a cookout for students and having teachers write “notes of affirmation” to each child.
“This test is so important because it measures students’ mastery of grade level standards and content,” McBride said. “It also determines students’ grade level placement (for third grade students according to the criteria in the Alabama Literacy Act), designing specialized instruction, setting learning goals, and gives us a clear picture of what needs to be our focus for the following academic year. A good score indicates that the school is hard working, builds a positive culture and climate for students, staff, parents and community, and indicates success for students in the years to come. It also fosters a great amount of pride, knowing that what we are delivering to our students on a daily basis is making a difference in their lives.”
McBride also implemented changes in the classroom.
“We have a new reading program this year,” she said. “Its focus has been increasing the volume of reading in students and challenging students’ reading when reading grade level or difficult texts. We have also adopted a new math intervention program, which targets student deficiencies in the areas of numbers and operations and fractions. Our data from last year indicated that our students needed more support in both of these areas.”
And there were other incentives to motivate students: a drawing for Sam’s sized candy jars for kids who try their best and take their time on the assessment, and “out of uniform days” for students who are on time and are at school during the testing days.
It will be a while before schools know the results, as scores for the second and third grades will arrive in May while other classes will receive grades during the summer.

Brewton resident Randy Tatano is a veteran TV news reporter and network producer, and is currently a novelist and freelance writer for the Escambia County School System.