Surgoinsville Elementary students cheer as teachers and cheerleaders encourage students for T-CAP testing that begins Tuesday. Shown are: Justise Hatfield, Ronnie Biddinger, Heath McClellan, Mitchell Smith, Derringer Barton, Cheyenne Smith and Kelley Shanks. Photo by Erica Yoon.
SURGOINSVILLE - Hawkins County Schools have shown marked improvement over the past three years in their state T-CAP testing, and school officials don't want to see a backslide.
The big question now is will a year's worth of work in the classroom pay off this week as three days of T-CAP testing begins Tuesday for first- through eighth-grade students in Hawkins County.
Schools through the system held T-CAP pep rallies Friday afternoon, impressing upon students the importance of getting a good night's sleep before each testing day, and stressing the importance of the testing.
Volunteer High School cheerleaders were at Surgoinsville Elementary School Friday afternoon, leading cheers and doing acrobatic stunts to get the children excited about doing well.
"We want them excited about how well they're going to do and not stressing over the tests this coming week," said first-grade teacher Shasha Laster. "We want to remind them that they know the answers already and they've worked hard, so they can do it."
There were also a few incentives presented to the students to take their T-CAPs seriously.
"After the tests each day we're going to have some rewards for those who have followed the rules and done their best, and we'll be revealing those rewards during the pep rally," Laster said. "We're going to have a ‘pop in' for some popcorn one day, and a popsicle party one day, and then a ‘pop in for some pop music' will be what we'll end with. We'll have a little dance for those who have participated and done their best on the tests."
Director of Schools Clayton Armstrong said Friday that the key to a good performance in the T-CAPs in the past has been teacher preparation and making sure the subject matter on the tests has been covered in the classroom all year.
Despite recent improvements, one of Armstrong's mottos for teachers and the Central Office staff has been that there's always room for improvement.
"In the development and revision of our curriculum frameworks for Hawkins County - which is tied to the Tennessee Blueprint for Learning - we've made sure we have addressed those skills through our pacing guide to make sure all skills have been introduced by the time we reach the T-CAP tests," Armstrong said. "We feel very confident that our students will do well if they take it seriously. We're asking parents to help students realize the importance of these tests in that they reflect what students have learned this year.
"We want them to take pride in their work, and the T-CAP pep rallies throughout the district are encouraging that."
Last year's testing revealed a need for more emphasis in language arts at the elementary level, and math in the middle school, so their's been extra emphasis placed on this subject throughout this school year. Although scores improved last year, Armstrong noted that "the bar continually raises."
Among the most difficult standards to achieve as set out in No Child Left Behind guidelines is the performance of special needs students. In the last two years Hawkins County Schools have increased their proficiency level of special needs students by 35 percent.
Over the past three years the system has intensified its faculty development toward meeting the state curriculum guidelines as well as the NCLB guidelines, and each year has seen a marked improvement. Following last year's testing, the system was notified that it had been removed from the NCLB "high priority list."
"We've really upped the quality of our staff development the past three years, implementing research based strategies in our classrooms," Armstrong said. "The purpose is to make sure we're diversifying instructional strategies to make sure we're reaching all students.