Gateway test results at UC Schools impressive

Gateway test results at UC Schools impressive

“Very nearly perfect.” That’s the message classroom/curriculum coordinator Vicki Wilkinson gave members of the Union City School Board about Gateway test results at Monday evening’s monthly session. All members, with the exception of Dr. Wright Jernigan, were on hand to hear the positive report that included the percentage of first-time test takers who scored proficient and advanced for the Language Arts Gateway — 99 percent; the percentage of first-time test takers scoring proficient and advanced for Biology I — 99 percent; and the percentage scoring proficient and advanced for Algebra I — 98 percent. All students — including special ed students — must take the exams to graduate from high school. The tests are administered three times a year, with by far the largest number of first-time test takers opting to sit for their exams in May. A summer “Gateway camp” for special ed students who had problems with the test is being offered prior to the next opportunity to test — in July — and these sessions that focus on instruction and review will also be open to any non-special ed students who might have had trouble with an exam. That number was low, but school personnel want every student to do their best. The exams will be offered yet a third time in December for the benefit of students who are still having difficulty but most especially for transfer students who may have missed other testing dates. Gateway scores in English and Algebra are used to determine if a school has made Adequate Yearly Progress, according to the guidelines for the federal No Child Left Behind program. Only the scores of first-time test takers are used in this determination. In addition, a student’s score makes up 15 percent of his grade in that class during the semester in which he takes it, and passing the Gateway is required to graduate. “You can’t get much better than this,” said Director of Schools Gary Houston in praising teachers and students and congratulating those who had worked so hard and their parents. “In Algebra, particularly, we made great strides — rising from being borderline and leaning toward “target” school status last year to the top of the mountain this year. I want to commend our teachers and students who have worked so hard. Mrs. Wilkinson deserves credit, too, for developing areas where we learned to ‘work smarter.’” The system’s writing assessment scores — focusing on fifth-graders and juniors — were also cause for rejoicing. Twice during their school careers, students take this required writing exam, which is graded at the state level. In addition to the mandated testing at these two levels, the Union City system also tests eighth-graders. Scores can range from a low of 0 to a high of 6 — an “outstanding” paper. Scores of 4 (competent) and 5 (strong), plus the top score, were attained by 86 percent of fifth-graders for the 2007-08 school year. This was an increase of 9 percent from the previous year. At the junior level at UCHS, 88 percent claimed the highest standards and there was a decrease in the number of students who scored below 4 from the previous year. Eighth-graders at Union City Middle School also took the test and 85 percent of them claimed a spot on the upper half of the testing map. Of particular pride to the board was the report that 80 percent of the students in the UCMS Read 180 program — designed to assist students with reading difficulties — scored 4 or higher. “This was a great accomplishment for these students,” Houston said. In other business, former board member Brian Heatherly, who now lives in Athens, was welcomed as a visitor to the session by board chairman Janice Faulk. The board approved budget amendments and outstanding purchase orders/invoices for the three schools in the system and accepted bids on: • instructional paper — low bidder Caldwell Office Outfitters Inc. for a total of $20,577.60; • walking trail — low bidder Craddock and Roach Paving LLC in the amount of $12,500 (to be paid for with a grant secured by coordinator of school health Kristen Miles); • janitorial services — overall low bidder GCA in the amount of $18,895 for labor/supervision/equipment/materials/chemicals/products, $17,270 for labor/supervision/equipment, $13.50 per man hour for emergency and/or day service per man hour, 12 cents per square foot for carpet cleaning and 18 cents per square foot per occurrence for stripping and refinishing floors. • bread and milk products — low bidder Turner Holdings for $56,261.36, with a bid of $5,400.33 for ice cream. The board also approved the Local Consolidated Application for Federal Funding for Title I, II, III, IV, V and VI and decided to continue operating under the 2007-08 budget until the new budget is finalized and accepted. In a personnel update, Houston told the board that UCES fifth-grade teacher Martha Stewart had informed him of her intention to retire. Michelle Greer has resigned her position at UCMS because her family is moving from this area and David Barker has resigned his teaching position at UCHS. New hires include David Houston and Angela Searcy at UCES and Rhonda Shanklin as a special ed teacher at UCMS. UCES physical education teacher Jeremy Maddox has had a re-assignment of coaching duties from assistant to head baseball coach at UCHS and Morgan Cruce as been hired as a non-faculty football coach at UCHS. In the director’s report, Houston thanked school personnel Cindy Kuberski and Cindy Davis, who are Master Gardeners, for their attention to the shrub beds and flowers on the Union City campuses and said their efforts have added to the attractiveness of the schools. He commented on the success of the recent UCES “Block Party” and applauded the sponsoring PTO, the school administrators and faculty for the success of the evening. Houston also read a letter from a UCES parent about the event: “… Much to my son Hunter’s despair, we were unable to attend the UCES Block Party. Upon arriving back in Union City around 10:45 p.m., we surprised him by driving by the elementary school, hoping to wish Mr. Miller (principal Michael Paul Miller, who had pledged to the students that he would spend the night on the roof if they read 100,000 books this year. They “topped out” with an actual total of more than 107,000 volumes and Miller was lifted to the roof the night of the Block Party, courtesy of the Union City Fire Department.) a ‘good night’s’ sleep on the roof. What we found was a delightful man peering over the roof top, waving at passersby. As we stopped, he yelled, ‘Hello, Hunter Edwards’ to my son, which made his night. Hunter told his friend how glad he was he attends Union City schools because his principal keeps his promises. Character is something that can be taught via an “AR” book; however, it was demonstrated Friday night and is something being developed under the leadership of Michael Paul Miller. Thank you for allowing him to teach our children.” Houston praised the Class of 2008 at Union City High School for their exemplary appearance at the recent graduation exercises. “This year’s graduation was another proud moment,” he said. “Thanks to the students, parents and guests for showing respect for the dignity of this memorable occasion.” He also congratulated valedictorian Adam Moon and salutatorian Rachel Triplett. “This has been a very successful year for our school system,” Houston added in closing. “We had achievements in all our schools. Students were challenged and they responded in an affirmative way. Our favorable test results are just a part of this success. The climate in our schools was positive and I commend the administrators, faculty and staff for making this possible. Good work.” During the meeting, the board also voted to renew Houston’s contract, with a beginning date of July 1, 2008, and an end date of June 30, 2010. Because the state decided not to fund raises for teachers this year, the board elected to keep Houston’s salary at its current level of $92,065. He will receive a $2,000 bonus for having completed the items in his 2007-08 performance contract with high marks and will also take part in the one-time bonus of $400 being provided by the state to all educators. The board also reviewed Houston’s 2007-08 performance contract and made changes and additions for the 2008-09 academic year. The board retained language that: • encouraged Houston to continue the practice of conducting leadership academies to help meet future administrative personnel needs; • encouraged him to continue to oversee the strict enforcement of the revised dress code for students, staff and teachers, noting that the policy — in its upcoming second year — has recently been revised and restating its commitment to see the policy carried out; • encouraged the director to continue to place emphasis on the College Preparatory Magnet Program, including the concepts of “raising the bar” at UCMS and UCES, as well as at the high school. The board added the requirement that Houston explore the necessary requirements for the high school to apply for the High School of the Year program, which encompasses the successful offering of AP courses. UCHS is the only public school in the area offering such a wide array of AP programs, ensuring that they are taught by specially trained instructors and compelling students to take the AP exit exams, which result in free college credit for those meeting the standards. The number of AP and Honors classes will expand again this year for students at UCHS. • encouraged the director to continue to develop and implement strategies to recognize the accomplishments of teachers and staff. The board added a new goal which states: “Being aware of the need for diversity in the staff and teaching personnel, the Director will explore new search methods to open up avenues for reaching a qualified, diverse population of candidates for hire.” Closing comments from board members included high praise for teachers and staff in Union City schools. Mrs. Faulk also expressed the board’s sympathy to the family of Jenny Adkins, who died recently. Mrs. Adkins was a former teacher in the school system and her husband, Stockton, was a former school board member. Published in The Messenger 6.11.08

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