CLYATTVILLE -- One local elementary school's performance on the 2002 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests has captured the attention of Georgia's top officials.

Barbara Bankston, Clyattville Elementary School principal, recently received a letter from Gov. Roy E. Barnes stating that she and her staff "are to be commended for the improvements in student achievement." Clyattville, one of seven elementary schools in the Lowndes County School System, instructs kids in grades prekindergarten through five.

Improvements referred to in the letter center around moving students out of the "does not meet" category by 10 or more percentage points in reading, English/language arts, and mathematics for grades four.

In 2001, the state showed that 26 percent of fourth graders statewide failed to meet the expected performance level in reading. At Clyattville, that percentage held true. However, in 2002, both the state and Clyattville showed a drop in the percentage of failing scores -- 6 and 10 percentage points, respectively.

The trend continued with scores on the English/language arts section of the CRCT. In 2001, 26 percent of fourth-graders statewide failed to meet expectations. At Clyattville, that number rose to 30 percent.

Then in 2002, the state dropped to 23 percent of fourth-graders not meeting standards, a 3-percent decrease, while Clyattville fell to a mere 15 percent.

On the mathematics section, the state showed 38 percent of fourth-graders statewide not meeting expectations. That same year, nearly half, 48 percent, of fourth-graders at Clyattville failed to meet set standards. But over the course of a year that number dropped to 34 percent statewide and 24 percent at Clyattville.

According to the Georgia Department of Education Web site, scores in the "does not meet" category indicate student performance was not as strong as educators expect from the grade level student at the end of the school year, and additional assistance and review most likely are needed. Based on performance standards determined by Georgia educators, student scores on the CRCT are placed in one of three categories -- does not meet the standard, meets the standard, and exceeds the standard.

"Two years ago, the first round of CRCT scores were released, and clearly Clyattville Elementary School responded to the challenge of raising student achievement, not because of rankings but because of concern for children," Barnes stated.

Bankston said she and her staff have implemented a number of activities and strategies designed to help students learn, thus improving CRCT scores. These include reading and mathematics groups, extended reading and mathematics instructional periods, daily review of materials, daily use of computer assisted programs, and an after-school program for at-risk students.

"This year we are continuing the same practices," Bankston said. "We are also focusing more on quality instruction for our staff."

Excited about her school's performance, Bankston said there is still always room for improvement.

"It has taken a lot of work from many people to see this improvement take place," she added. "We have a dedicated staff and supportive parents all working together to make a difference in the lives of these children."

Bankston and other Lowndes County School System representatives were honored for their efforts at a reception in Atlanta recently by the State Board of Education.

On Nov. 13, 1997, the State Board of Education adopted the Quality Core Curriculum as revised by the committee of Georgia educators and citizens. Georgia law requires that the State Board of Education contract for the development of criterion-referenced tests based on the revised curriculum. The CRCT is a direct result of this mandate.

The CRCT measures student acquisition of the skills and knowledge described in the curriculum. Information garnered from the assessment serves a dual purpose -- diagnosis of individual student strengths and weaknesses as related to the instruction of the curri

culum and program evaluation to gauge the quality of education throughout the state.

Georgia law, as amended by the A+ Education Reform Act of 2000, requires that all students in grades one through eight take the CRCT in the content areas of reading, English/language arts, and mathematics. Additionally, students in grades three through eight will be assessed in science and social studies.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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