By Rebecca Wallace
Like any business or organization, performance in schools can be cyclical. And though Parkside Elementary has been on an upward trajectory with test scores the past few years, the latest scores reflecting student performance from the 2016-2017 school year show a decline. The score from the district’s accountability office – the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) – is 54. This is 14 points lower than last year. School leaders are naturally disappointed in the score, but, according to Parkside’s new principal, Timmy Foster, they have a plan in place to take immediate corrective measures.
“After 10 weeks of classroom instruction observations, I have re-established our academic goals for the school year and re-visited our school priorities,” said Principal Foster. “Together with the entire instructional staff, I put a plan in motion to focus more on the individual needs of students.”
There is a very diverse student population at Parkside. To meet the individual needs of students, the leadership team will differentiate instruction through flexible grouping and design standards-based instructional plans tailored for each group. These groups will be fluid and will change as the needs of the students change.
“We are going to have to work hard, and it’s going to be tough over the next several months, but I know we can get our scores back up,” he added.
Mr. Foster and his leadership team are looking at teacher effectiveness and providing support where needed. They are having conversations with teachers and are asking questions like: How are you planning for those kids that already know what you are about to present? How are you pushing them to the next level of understanding? Are gifted students being challenged? What data points are you using to assign students to groups? When students don’t get it, are there opportunities for remediation?
“And to be honest, some teachers may not be comfortable with how hard we are going to push them. But we have no choice.”
The school is also implementing a new math program that incorporates a more conceptual approach to math, and gives more opportunities for the students to demonstrate their understanding of math in a way that prepares students for an assessment like the Georgia Milestones – the key component of the CCRPI.
While there are many factors that undoubtedly contributed to the decline in test scores, Mr. Foster points to the fact that last year was extremely difficult for the leadership team and the teaching staff. The interim principal didn’t start until September and shortly after, the assistant principal decided to leave. This instability greatly impacted the oversight of instructional practices in the classrooms.
Now with a full team of a seasoned, permanent principal and two experienced assistant principals (one for the lower grades and one focused on the upper grades), Parkside is embarking on an intense year of transition.
“But we will succeed,” added Foster.
Thankfully, Parkside’s three-year average CCRPI is still above 60, and placement on the state’s “Focus” list is based on this average. Though Parkside is no longer on the Focus list, the school will maintain the monitoring and support services the state provides schools that need to improve.
Diverse as the community it represents, Parkside Elementary serves the Grant Park, Summerhill, Boulevard Heights, Ormewood Park, Woodland Hills, Glenwood Park, and Cabbagetown neighborhoods. For more information, please call 404-802-4100 or visit www.Atlanta.k12.Ga.us/Parkside and www.facebook.com/ParksideElementaryPTA.