McDuffie County Schools started this year with good news. It's only appropriate that the year ends with more good news.
In a year that began with the announcement of McDuffie County making Adequate Yearly Progress as a school system, officials announced on Monday that Georgia High School Graduation test results increased in nearly all key areas over last year's scores.
Only recently had officials suggested steps to increase the scores in science and social studies as well as close the gap between African-American and Caucasian students and between college prep and tech prep students.
But this year's results were a huge and pleasantly surprising step in the right direction, according to Thomson High School Principal Rudy Falana.
"It was fantastic. We accomplished more than we thought," he said during a faculty meeting Monday in which teachers were informed of the jump in scores. "... We like to celebrate little steps, but this is a giant step because we did so well."
The largest increase came on the science section of the test in which regular program 11th grade students who took the test for the first-time jumped from a 66 percent passing rate last year to 74 percent this year.
Passing rates in English increased by 1 percent, to 96. The social studies portion saw an increase of 2 percent over last year's passing rate of 80 percent for regular program students.
On the English section, black students and tech prep students both saw an increase of 5 percent over last year. In math, 3 percent more black students passed that section while white students saw an increase of 2 percent.
The science section provided huge gains to help close the gaps with black students passing at a rate of 14 percent over last year while tech prep students passing increased 9 percent.
Social studies also showed an increase of black students passing that test by 7 percent and an increase of 4 percent from tech prep students.
"We needed to target these students and that's exactly what happened," Mr. Falana said, adding that the across-the-board gains were a school-wide endeavor.
"It was truly a K-12 effort and was made possible because of the work of many dedicated students, parents, and educators," stated THS Assistant Principal Lynn Cato in a letter.Ý"We as educators understand the importance of our profession and continually seek new growth in our pupils and in ourselves."
She said a wide variety of techniques were implemented this year to help boost the test scores. Students took part in reviews as well as practice tests to get them ready for the real thing.
Teachers have also tutored and taught students, sometimes with specific information on their weak areas from the previous year's PSAT or Georgia High School Predictor Tests. Mr. Falana praised the teachers for the increases, saying it was their dedication that made it happen.