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Caryville Elementary staff keeps positive approach to achievement

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42 percent of students proficient in core subjects

By Dwane Wilder

CARYVILLE—Lori Adkins, principal of Caryville Elementary School the past four and a half years, admits it has been a challenge to stay positive while under increasing pressure from the state to improve academic standards.

“In the midst of the change and shifts, the staff is trying to keep good morale by encouraging each other,” said Adkins. “I tell them every day they have the most important job in the world and that is shaping children’s lives.”

Adkins said standardized testing occurs on a regular basis throughout the school year and not just at the end of the spring.

For grades 3 through 5, TCAP achievement is up again for Caryville Elementary Students. More than 42 percent of students were rated as proficient or advanced in the core subjects, which was a slight gain from the previous year when 40.7 students were proficient or advanced. In the past two years, the jump has been almost 10 percentage points.

“Our report card data shows we’ve made upward gains in reading and math,” said Adkins.

Adkins said it has been very difficult to decipher testing data, which often leaves her with more questions than answers. The one constant, she said, is the state wants to see growth every year from all students in every subject.

“For example, our third graders had the highest reading scores on the TCAP but the lowest growth in the school,” said Adkins. “Their overall scores were good, but they didn’t show the growth expected by the state.”

The one area where Caryville students failed to meet projected growth was from the second to third grades, however TCAP scores were up for those third graders.

Adkins said the third, fourth and fifth grades all scored with a point of each other on the TCAP. Those same students will also be required to complete assessments by computer for the first time ever this school year.

“The standards are quite challenging,” said third grade teacher Teresa King. “The kids seem to adapt well. However, with testing such as CRA (Constructed Response Assessment) it almost seems like they are set up for failure. Questions seem to be worded in such a way as to trick kids. Wording isn’t clear and precise as to how the questions should be answered.”

Adkins said one of the things she has found to be beneficial is to schedule weekly grade-level meetings with her teachers. The staff also attends professional development training on a regular basis.

“I feel like that’s helped Caryville maintain that upward progress,” said Adkins. “What’s great about Caryville is that we have a lot of great teachers that have expertise in different areas. If we can somehow maintain that balance and remember why we’re here, it will all be worth it.”

Overcrowding has also been an issue at Caryville, which has 100 more students than the 550 it was designed to handle. Adkins said the school, which opened in January 2009, now has a half dozen third-grade classes in a facility built for four. The 120 third graders comprise the largest class at the school.

The school board has indicated it will address overcrowding at Caryville and other schools in Campbell County.

“Together teachers and students have been through lots of changes,” said King. “Caryville has one of the most positive and uplifting environments of any school that I have taught. Lori is extremely supportive and has a true heart for the kids and her teachers.”