Halifax schools feel pressure to perform on annual tests

Posted April 15, 2010 8:35 a.m. EDT
Updated April 15, 2010 10:55 a.m. EDT

— Next month, students in North Carolina's public schools will take the EOGs, also known as end-of-grade tests. For Halifax County Schools, the exams are also a test to see if state intervention is working.

Student performance across the district has been so poor that last spring a Superior Court judge ordered the state to get involved.

Halifax County students might not show it, but they feel it – the pressure to perform.

“The students know they have to make growth and make gains this school year so that we are proficient in reading and math,” said Davie Middle School Principal Dennis Carrington.

Davie Middle has had below-average performance on state standardized tests for the past three years. To combat that trend, Carrington said, preparation, practice and focus are key.

During the first period of the day, the entire school works on remediation for reading or math. Students who are struggling don't go to electives during the school day. Instead, they come to a “pull out” session for extra tutoring.

All students also take mock end-of-grade tests, and Carrington pops into classes for what he calls his weekly brain teasers.

“We have put forth 150 percent effort to make sure we are on top,” he said.

On last year’s EOGs, 37.5 percent of Davie Middle School students scored as proficient in both reading and math. The state wants that number to rise this year by 10 percentage points, to 47.5 percent.

Halifax County Schools is in a three-year intensive program to boost scores. North Carolina Department of Public Instruction leaders came at the beginning of the year to help teachers create new strategies for success.

Davie Middle also offers after-school tutoring to meet students’ needs. A school transformation coach, provided by DPI, helps guide the staff.

“We are committed to what we are doing. So that, I think, is going to play a big part,” said teacher Patricia High.

The moment of truth will come in May.

“All the resources that we have available and the pressure is really pushing us so we can do what we have to do for this school year,” Carrington said.