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NCSS releases improvement plan
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Members of the Newton County Board of Education announced the public release of their district improvement plan on the system's Web site at Tuesday night's meeting.

The plan outlines four major performance goals relating to the No Child Left Behind Act as well as several instructional support services goals. Another possible seven goals are under review by the board and central office staff.

"The aim of the strategic plan is the improvement of both student achievement and that of the school system," said Superintendent Steven Whatley. "Student learning is our ultimate goal."

The first goal is the same goal of the NCLB - to have all students performing at grade level in reading and mathematics by 2014.

Targeted subgroups are also outlined in the plan. The system will target students with disabilities in first through eighth grade and English language learners and black students as juniors in high school.

By 2009, system administrators want 89.5 percent of Newton County students in first through eighth grade showing proficiency in reading and 86.6 percent in mathematics.

They also want 96.4 percent of juniors meeting or exceeding state English and language arts standards and 81.5 percent meeting or exceeding mathematics standards on the Georgia High School Graduation Test by 2009.

Strategies for this achievement include developing comprehensive curriculum guides, consistent county-wide course syllabi and timelines for teaching of core content, as well as integrating technology, expanding remedial programs, providing students with samples of exemplary work, developing and administering pre-tests assessing students' abilities, implementing writing across the curriculum, involving students in authentic math experiences, providing on-going professional development, forming diverse school improvement leadership teams and monitoring implementation of these plans.

The second NCLB performance goal is to have all English language learners become proficient in reading and mathematics.

By 2009, the goal is for 81 percent of ELLs in first through eighth grade to meet or exceed standards in math and language arts. They system wants to see 60 percent of junior ELLs to pass end of course tests in language arts and mathematics.

Strategies for these two achievements include the same actions as the first goal but add providing translators and in-home services for parents and students.

The third goal seeks to have all students taught by highly qualified teachers. System administrators hope promoting system-wide job fairs, expanding the online application process, monitoring new staff members, advising teachers of course work and testing needed to gain highly qualified status, recruiting with incentive packages including free laptops, providing financial support for exams, studying the possibility of reducing the kindergarten through third grade class size to 18 and providing on-going professional development will improve faculty skills and utilization of those skills.

The last NCLB performance goal aspires to provide students with learning environments that are safe, drug free and conductive to learning.

System administrators want the suspension rates relating to drug or weapons violations to decrease .05 percent for each of the next three years. They also want attendance rates to improve for all students, with absentee rates decreasing .3 percent over the next three years.

Actions to attain these goals include enriching schools with technology, continuing and enhancing character education and establishing a protocol to monitor attendance patterns on a constant basis.

Whatley said all the departments of the central office and service center should focus on the improvement of and support for student learning and achievement.

"This plan charts the actions, strategies or programs planned to help us reach our goals," he said.