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April 16, 2015 Issue

Good Farm Fun
Students prepare for new Milestones
Wadley pays off short-term debt

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Good Farm Fun


Locals gathered at Producers Peanut at 500 US Highway 1 in Louisville Saturday, April 11, to enjoy live music, a petting zoo, homemade ice cream and cow patty Bingo. The event was held to promote agriculture and ag safety.

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Students prepare for new Milestones

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

All year, students across Georgia have been preparing for a new test. Beginning Wednesday in Glascock County and in following weeks in Jefferson County, students will be assessed using the Georgia Milestones, a test the State Legislature believes will provide a truer picture of what a child has learned throughout the year.

“The Milestones has more emphasis on critical thinking,” said Jefferson County Director of School Testing Dr. Michael Lewis. “They believed the CRCT was too generic. The Milestones is based on critical thinking and reasoning skills.”

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One of the biggest changes from the CRCT to the Georgia Milestones will be the open ended questions in the math and English portions of the test, requiring students to make a constructive response. Other sections, such as social studies and science based course tests will have multiple choices.

"Teachers at each grade level have been working all year to prepare students by providing instruction and guidance in answering questions that require a constructed or extended response and providing as much information as possible about the construction of the test to the students,” said Glascock County Assessment Director Ann Cantrell.

Dr. Lewis explained that Georgia, along with many other states, are moving away from CRCT type testing and have begun to write their own assessments.

“Locally we had no say so in this decision,” Dr. Lewis added. “This is state mandated, and based on the Milestones being a better test.”

All grades, three through 12, will take the Georgia Milestones. Grades three through eight will take an end of grade test for English/language arts, math, social studies and science. Grades nine through 12 will take an end of course test, with eight different tests that can be administered, but only if the student has taken the subject that year.

“We hope that Georgia Milestones will be more beneficial than previous standardized tests for assessing the needs of our students and ultimately assisting our teachers in tailor making instruction to meet these needs,” Glascock County Superintendent Jim Holton said.

Because this is the first year the test will be administered, state officials have waived requirements that in the past determined if a student moved forward to the next grade. Before, third graders had to pass the reading portion to be promoted to fourth grade. Fifth grade had to pass reading and math to go to the sixth grade.

“The only thing waived was passing of the Milestones in grades three, five and eight, as well as in high school,” Dr. Lewis said. “Usually whatever made on the test counts as 20 percent of a passing grade, but that has been waived. Passing the Milestones for grades will not be a condition of promotion.”

School systems will also not receive test scores until the end of July or first of August, according to Dr. Lewis.

“It is not all graded by machine and will take a long time to grade,” Dr. Lewis added. “By the time we get the results, some school systems will have already started.”

He also said that this year will help to determine a passing score for the Georgia Milestones. Because it is the first year, Dr. Lewis said the state does not know what a good passing score would be.

School systems have had the entire year to prepare students, teachers and parents for this moment, providing teaching tools on its website, including GOFAR which gives assessments for teachers to use as a part of their lesson for students.

“It is pretty much inline with how the Milestones are written,” Dr. Lewis said. “We have other resources and we have been using them as well.”

“GCCS teachers throughout the system have participated in the ‘Formative Instructional Practices,’ professional learning development program,” Cantrell explained. “This program has provided teachers innovative ideas for incorporating classroom activities involving higher level thinking tasks that require constructed responses.”

Glascock County has also held monthly collaborative meetings for teachers to reinforce constructed and extended response expectations and to develop strategies for any concerns.

“Multiple practice tests have been given through both the Georgia Online Assessment System and through the online practice tests provided through the Georgia Milestones Assessment System,” Cantrell added.

Some students will also begin taking the test online this year, with systems needing to have 30 percent of all test takers participating online for the first two years. The third and fourth year, every system will have to be at 80 percent..

“In five years, the state is saying that everybody must take the Georgia Milestones online,” Dr. Lewis explained. “There will be no more pencil and paper. The fifth year has to be 100 percent online.”

The world is technologically advancing, now the state of Georgia wants to make sure its students keep up with the standards of other school systems, states and nations. It will also save money and paper from having to print the tests.

Jefferson County plans to try to have 50 percent of students online next year.

“Our biggest concern is do we have enough computers for each school,” Dr. Lewis added. “We just don’t know. If testing is 100 percent online, every child has to have access to a computer. Every school at most has two computer labs.

"I do know they are allowing tablets and iPads and maybe that will be used in the future, but something is going to have to change. Some systems couldn’t even do 30 percent this year to give the test in the nine days the state allows. I am thinking they will extend that window.”

Glascock County has been administering most of its high school end of course tests online for several years now, which Cantrell said helped them to prepare for this transition. Glascock County’s system will meet the 30 requirement this year by still administering all end of course tests and adding the seventh grade end of grade assessment online.

“We teach a keyboarding class to all students in sixth grade, so these students should be prepared to test online in terms of keyboarding skills,” Cantrell said. “In accordance with state guidelines, all read aloud assessments will also be administered online. By testing these groups online, GCCS will exceed the requirement of 30 percent for this school year.”

But Glascock County is also facing the same technology shortfall.

“In order to meet the states’ goal of 100 percent online testing by 2019, the state will need to provide additional technology resources between now and then,” Superintendent Holton added.

Dr. Lewis said he believes they are prepared.

“To tell you the truth, students and teachers are comfortable,” Dr. Lewis said. “The only thing is we don’t know how things will be graded or what will be a passing or failing score.”

Cantrell said Glascock County does see an area for concern with the grading of the tests too.

“As with any kind of major change, there comes uneasiness,” she said. “After seeing the state projections based on results from field test items, we are concerned that the scores will be much lower than those we are accustomed to seeing on the CRCT. However, our teachers have done a good job teaching the standards and preparing students all year, so we are going into the test with confidence.”

Glascock County will give end of grade tests for grades three through eight April 15 to April 22. April 15 will be English/language arts parts one and two. April 16 will be English/language arts part 3. April 17 will be math, April 21 science and April 22 social studies. End of Course Milestones for grades nine through 12 will be given May 6 to May 12.

“Parents can help to reduce anxiety about the test in their children,” Cantrell suggested. “Speak positive and be encouraging. In addition, making sure children have a good breakfast and a good night’s sleep before each test day will help students perform to the best of their ability.”

Glascock County has material to prepare parents in helping their children on their homepage, www.glascock.k12.ga.us.

Jefferson County end of grade tests will be given April 21 to May 1. April 21 and April 22 will be English/language arts, and April 23 will be math. April 28 will be science and April 30 will be social studies. End of Course Milestones at Jefferson County High School will be May 11 to May 15.

“We have a practice test and video on our homepage (www.jefferson.k12.ga.us) for parents and a newsletter for parents,” Dr. Lewis said in helping parents understand the new test.

Dr. Lewis said parents may visit the library if they do not have access to a computer and the internet or visit the schools.

“We welcome parents to come by our schools during the day to use the media center for this,” he said. “Just contact the principal at their child’s school.”




Wadley pays off short-term debt

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Most people understand being in debt, paying late fees and a reduction in revenue; but, when it happens to a city, it can make residents a bit uncertain, maybe even nervous. What will happen if the city can’t pay its bills?

That was the situation in Wadley just a few months ago; but, now, with the help of recently hired administrative consultant Lamar Faircloth, Mayor Harold Moore believes the tide has turned.

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One of the problems the city faced was a damaged computer system.

“When I came in, the computer system had been hit by lightning in August and not functioning. They weren’t able to do water billing; they weren’t able to do taxes. The lightning fried the hard drive; the data was not able to be recouped,” Faircloth said in an interview last week.

Many residents were not paying water bills since they had not received any. Faircloth said those who did make payments were paying the minimum rate the city charges.

“We’ve got new computer, new software. We had to reenter all the data. We’re just getting to the point where we can bill in a timely manner. We weren’t able to bill until a week into February,” he said.

This week, during Wadley’s city council meeting, Councilwoman Beth Moore gave the city’s account balance as $112,214.53. This figure represents a combined number from the water and sewer account and the general fund.

Beth Moore is the chairman of the finance committee and has served on this committee for more than three years.

She said at one point last year, the balance was low enough to cause concern about making payroll.

Mayor Moore said Faircloth’s contract requires him to work one day a week.

“He’s here three or four days,” he said.

The mayor and consultant agreed one of the things helping to turn the city’s finances around is teamwork.

“All the employees are working as a team, working for the city,” Faircloth said.

“We are out of our short-term debt. In six months, we’ve been able to pay that off,” the mayor said, adding that short-term debt was $250,000.

Faircloth said not having enough cash flow was a significant factor in the city’s financial problems. For example, the city had not been able to pay some bills on time.

“We’ve been able to correct that (cash flow), some of it. We’re working on (collecting) property taxes,” Faircloth said.

The consultant said when Wadley citizens feel good about the city, they will show more concern about it.

“Once people realize the government is stable and competent. No one wants to live where there’s controversy,” he said.

Faircloth said he wants to see the city provide good, clean water to residents and businesses and have natural gas available to attract new business.

“One of the things Mr. Faircloth is very good at, he watches every penny,” the mayor said.

An audit of the city’s utilities showed where some of its bills could be reduced, saving thousands of dollars each month.

“Paying bills on time so we don’t have to pay penalties and that has saved us money. You put trust in people; and, people want to work here,” Mayor Moore said.

Faircloth said city employees had no direction and did not realize the repercussions of needless spending.

“We have an understanding among our employees,” he said.

Mayor Moore said when Faircloth comes to work, he and the staff “get excited.”

“We know it’s going to be a productive day. That’s what he was hired for,” the mayor said.

“One of the things I do, when I go into a city, I analyze everything, look at each department, each area and identify weaknesses and strengths in each and then I develop a plan to address (those weaknesses),” Faircloth said.

“He made us sit down and look at all of our bills,” the mayor said.

Faircloth said he analyzed the situation and made priorities.

“You’ve got to plug the leaks and make repairs,” he said.

One of the things the men agreed on was for property owners to pay their property taxes.

“We will take whatever legal action we have to,” Faircloth said.







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Last modified: April 16, 2015