Top educator tours Albany schools - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Top educator tours Albany schools

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January 26, 2006

Albany - Dougherty County students made some of the biggest gains in test scores in the state last year. State School Superintendent Kathy Cox visited some Albany schools today to find out how students made such great progress.

Last year, the Dougherty County School System was named a Distinguished Title One District because students' test schools improved so much. Over the past six years, standardized test scores in reading and math improved more than 50 percentage points.

The state school superintendent says the key to smarter students is more one-on-one learning and lower class size.

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox was back in front of the class today, teaching short lessons at Radium Springs Middle and Albany High School. "Dougherty County is a system that is moving the needle," she said.

Cox visited the Dougherty County schools to congratulate teachers and students for making huge improvements last year and to find out the key to that success.

Dougherty County Superintendent Dr. Whatley said, "Every year, our priority is for each school to move to a higher level than they were the previous year."

Whatley says the test score improvements are a result of more professional development for teachers and more one-on-one teaching for students. For instance, two teachers head this math class. One helps students with special needs keep up without halting the lesson for the others.

Cox says that individualized instruction can only happen if class size is lowered. "When you have class loads of 28 to 30 all day long, it's very difficult to do anything on an individual basis."

That's why she supports the Governor's proposal to put fewer students in classes. "What he is saying is that we're going to make it manageable for teachers to be able to individualize instruction for students."

Dougherty County schools are still fighting an uphill battle. Nearly 40% of high schoolers don't graduate, and 1,500 first through fifth graders had to go to summer school last year because they failed the mandatory standardized test, the CRCT.

Dr. Whatley said "We're certainly not where we need to be." But the improvements made so far are proof the state's new curriculum and news ways of teaching are working, slowly but surely.

Kathy Cox also praised the Governor's proposed teacher pay raises. She says happy teacher are better teachers. As for Dougherty County schools, eight grade math and reading scores on the CRCT have gone up 85% in that last decade.

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