Eighty-four percent of the 3,111 fifth-graders in the county tested in March met or exceeded state standards for writing, an increase from 78 percent last school year.
The county’s performance exceeds both the regional showing of 83 percent and statewide total of 79 percent.
Of the total participation in the county, 277 were students with disabilities and 67 speakers of English as a second language.
Within the county, four schools made significant gains of 14 percentage points or more in the number of students meeting and exceeding standards.
Hasty Elementary School in downtown Canton boosted its performance by 44 percentage points rising to 73 percent from 29 percent last school year.
Principal Izell McGruder said a main factor in the success was keeping last year’s entire fourth-grade team together for the fifth grade this year.
“Our fifth-grade teachers knew their students’ strengths and areas needing improvement having taught them the previous year,” he said. “They were able to forego all the ‘getting to know you’ procedures that are commonly seen in many classrooms at the start of school.”
Teachers, he added, worked “diligently this year on writing across all the subject areas showing the students how writing is relevant in any subject as well as teaching them to be reflective writers.”
Arnold Mill Elementary School east of Woodstock increased its showing by 19 points to 88 percent from 69 percent a year ago.
Principal Ann Gazell credits the hard work of fifth-grade language arts teacher Kathryn Gunn.
“They write every single day whether a story starter or a writing project,” Ms. Gazell said of students in the language arts class. “She really gets them to focus on each step of the revision process… they truly analyze what they do.”
WriteToLearn software and one-on-one extra help also made a difference, Ms. Gazell said, noting two fifth-graders since January have spent the mornings before class writing with her in her office.
Hickory Flat Elementary School saw a 15-point jump to 82 percent from 67 percent last school year
“We’re pretty excited,” Principal Dr. Keith Ingram said, noting it’s hard to compare one year’s fifth-graders to another year’s class. This class, he said, “has a better focus on writing.”
Ingram said a couple of other factors contributed to the success: the use of WriteToLearn software by the fifth-graders both this school year and last year, and language arts being taught in the homeroom group.
“They get that immediate feedback, which makes betters writers,” Ingram said of the software, noting the homeroom environment for language arts offered students more individual attention.
Also seeing a big boost was Mountain Road Elementary School in southeast Cherokee with a 14-point gain to 92 percent from 78 percent last school year.
Mountain Road’s total was the second-highest in the district, following Liberty Elementary School near BridgeMill, which increased to 94 percent this year from 93 percent a year ago.
Principal Tammy Sandell said the school’s gameplan included teaching students how to organize their thoughts, focus on the elements of strong writing and use peer and self-editing. Three mock writing assessments are administered every year, and writing across the curriculum is emphasized, she added.
“Bottom line, we have awesome teachers and students,” she said.
Three schools did see declines in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards.
Clayton Elementary School dropped to 74 percent from 85 percent last school year; Knox Elementary School slipped to 83 percent from 91 percent; and R.M. Moore Elementary School dipped to 63 percent from 65 percent.
County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said each school’s data management team is to analyze the results. The analysis is used along with recommended strategies to improve student achievement.