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Posted: July 30, 2010 12:00 a.m.

CRCT Superstars

Fairview third-graders all pass, ace reading portion

By Brittany Thomas /

Several rising fourth-graders at Fairview Theme School have a piece of advice for their fellow students: Work hard and pay attention and you might make Newton County history just like they did, when it was announced that their entire class not only passed the CRCTs, but had 100 percent meet or exceed standards in reading.Although preliminary results were released publicly at the beginning of the month, students and teachers were told their scores right before the end of school. According to FTS principal Dr. Ruth Anne Smith, when she first saw the results, she was speechless.

"I was shocked," she said. "I told Mr. [Shaun] Wells (FTS assistant principal) and then I had him tell all the third grade teachers and their students that I needed to see them right away in the cafeteria. When they got there I was near tears - I know they all thought they were in trouble," she said with a chuckle.

"As soon as I told them, they just started hollering," she said. "Several other teachers came out of their classrooms to see what was going on. The whole school was just so excited."

Not only did the third grade have 100 percent of the students who took the test (93 students total) meet or exceed standards in reading, nearly 96 percent of the students met or exceeded standards in math, a feat which should not be taken lightly, considering state-wide, only 80 percent of third graders fell into that category and in Newton County as a whole, that number dropped even further to 77.5 percent.

When asked why she thought they were so successful, Smith said she believed it was a combination of things that made the third-graders score so well.

"I think it was the dedication of teachers, of parents and of the students," she said. "They really wanted this. We taught the state framework, we taught the critical thinking and we learned how to ask questions - especially in mathematics. We also did a morning academy where every third grade student was assigned to a group and the teachers took a different group and taught whatever the students needed," explained Smith.

The teachers - Danita Doan, Burny Drumheller, Della Kirkpatrick and Erin Kinard - said that when they were told by Wells that they were needed in the cafeteria with their classes, they all - students included - thought they were in trouble.

The students asked what they had done and I said ‘I don't know, but we're in big trouble,'" laughed Drumheller.

"I thought it was about the boy's bathroom," confided 8-year-old Tishanna Mitchell. "It's kind of messy and I thought the boys were in trouble."

According to Kirkpatrick, when they found out why they were really called to see the principal, the teachers cried. "We knew we had worked so hard and that the students had worked so hard. We had pushed them..."

Added Drumheller, "The parents worked with us and we all just worked so hard with homework contracts and morning academy and projects - not to mention parent volunteers and tutoring... They were tears of disbelief and joy."

The students were told of their accomplishment early in the day and instead of going back to class, went straight out to the playground while their teachers planned a party for them. On the day scheduled for student's to re-take the CRCT if they had failed, the entire third grade, along with their parents, had a cook-out to celebrate.

"I felt inspired and amazed that everybody passed the CRCT in reading," said 9-year-old Colby Rogers. "I worked really hard and it felt good to see that hard work pay off."

Added 9-year-old Rachal Phillips, "I was amazed that everybody in the third grade passed. That usually doesn't happen in most schools."

The teachers agree that a large part of the success is because the students who are at FTS are there because they want to be and because Fairview is so much more than just a school - it's a family. They also have complete support from the administration at the school.

"We have worked together as a team and everybody has pitched in," said Kinard.

"We couldn't have done this by ourselves," added Kirkpatrick. "It has been a total partnership. We had high expectations but so did the parents and the students and we all worked together as a team."

Some parents have accused the Newton County School System of using FTS as a way to have a private school within the school system and have alleged that only students who are well-off economically have parents and family who can manage to complete the required volunteer hours at the school and the at-home study required for the students. It's a claim that teachers and administrators at the school scoff at.

"We will be a Title 1 school next year," said Drumheller. "We have 45 percent of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch and 64 percent of our population are minorities. We have every level of income from those who are very needy to those who are upper class."

Mother Jacqulyn McKnight, whose daughter Dominique was in the third grade at FTS last year, said that she believed that parental involvement was the motivating factor behind the students' success.

"I'm not wealthy - I wish I was," she said with a laugh. "We came from a private school and decided to try it here [at FTS]. We bought the book [CRCT practice book] and we did the Internet practice and we just worked and worked and worked and it paid off. I was at the school when they found out and I was dancing in the cafeteria I was so happy," she said, as Dominique groaned, "Mom, don't say that, it's embarrassing!"

Lisa Phillips, whose daughter Rachal was in the history-making class, said they also practiced for the test, and that she volunteered to help small groups of students with multiplication study to prepare.

"We were so proud of them," she said. "And I think parental involvement is the key."

Gavin Scraggs, 9, said he thought that students did so well because they listened to their teachers and parents and followed instructions.

"Everyone took their time and studied and listened to the teachers," he said.

"We all studied really hard throughout the year and that's why I think we did really well on the CRCT," said 9-year-old Jade Saintilus. "And it's worth it to study that hard because it felt really good."

Added Jala Grant, 9, "We all really concentrated and focused on it and we weren't letting anything distract us."

NCSS Superintendent Dr. Gary Mathews expressed his pride in the students and staff at FTS.

"Anytime a school enjoys 95 percent or more of its students passing high-stakes tests, it is quite an accomplishment," he said. "Ninety-five percent or better is true for each of Fairview's subgroups in reading and mathematics. Obviously, something right is happening in Fairview classrooms. I look forward to learning about what teachers are doing at this school. Congrats to students, staff, parents, and administration. Keep on keeping on!"

Rachal and Colby also had advice for their fellow students on how to do better on their own CRCTs.

"Pay attention," urged Colby. "Don't goof off when you're supposed to be doing your homework."

"You should work your hardest and study and do all your homework," said Rachal. "If you do that then you'll probably all pass the CRCTs like we did."

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