Rural County Makes Big Gains on This Year's F-CAT Scores
With FCAT scores released this week, schools in North Central Florida have been anxiously learning how each of their grade levels fared.
Making the grade on the FCAT has become more challenging over the past few years as the grade needed to pass goes up. But, one rural county seems to have the formula for success.
Dixie County has one of the smallest populations in the state -- 75-percent of their students are on free or reduced lunch-- yet this year they have some of the biggest gains in FCAT scores.
Today a luncheon at Ruth Rains Middle School is in appreciation of all the teachers in the county. And they have a lot to celebrate at the end of this school year, Dixie County schools have some of the highest success rates on the FCAT's in all grades.
Third grade teacher from Anderson Elementary School, Amalia Chesser says, "We were very pleased because we've been on the other side of the fence."
Despite the scoring error on the part of the state, third graders at both elementary schools showed major improvements. According to Director of Curriculum, Garry Durham, of the Dixie County School Board, "We were one of the 9 districts when they said there were problems with the scores we were actually above the state average."
Anderson Elementary School went up 12 points from the year before and Old Town Elementary School 10. And the fifth grade at Anderson also did extraordinarily well. In fact, most of the grade levels did.
The secret to their success?
Superintendent of Schools Dennis Bennett says, "We want the research based curriculum that we found with both 'Florida Reading Initiative' and other things we're dong to give them the tools they need."
They're also using innovative math programs which led to a 24 point jump among 7th graders. And something else, they promote teachers up a grade along with their students. So this year's 7th grade teacher already knew her student's work intimately.
"And we're going to try something a little different next year and loop her up to 8th grade and see if we have the same type of gains," added Durham.
Though school's out, students can expect to start off the year strong, with teacher's who will have gone through summer training. But as third grade Old Town Elementary School teacher, Anne Jones explains it isn't just the students and teachers that must work hard, "...as well as the parents because they need the motivation also."
And while math scores went up 9 points to meet the state average, math teacher, Jean Driggers from Dixie County High School explains how she proposition's her 10th graders, "It's like taking a bad dose of medicine if you take you get well, if you don't it lingers on and on and on."
One other new program schools are using is called SUMS, "Students Understanding Math and Science." It may have helped science scores jump 12 points as well.
By Stacey Samuel, WCJB TV20 News
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