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The best is yet to come

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POSTED: May 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

In order to better prepare students for a technologically savvy and diverse world, Georgia’s Department of Education has spent the past several years revamping the state’s curriculum.

State Superintendent of Education Kathy Cox has said, "We will lead the nation in improving student achieving."

To achieve this goal, new standards have been written for all core academic areas. Each year, a different content area has been phased in at the local school level. Richmond Hill High School has followed this plan to improve student achievement by also heeding the state’s new mantra: "Work smarter not harder."

Yet, RHHS teachers have been working both smarter and harder to successfully incorporate the new Georgia Performance Standards as the basis for all curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Teachers have received training at the local, district, and state level to best learn how to utilize these improvements. Working by departments and by grade levels, teachers have created new lessons, activities, culminating performance tasks, rubrics, and assessments to lead our students in improving achievement.

Not only have teachers worked during their planning periods, but also before school, after school, and over the summer breaks to thoroughly plan and collaborate. Because of their hard work, classrooms have become more student-centered, and daily instruction focuses more on in-depth concepts and skills to encourage higher-order thinking and analysis.

The goal becomes more than improving test scores; the goal becomes helping students feel successful as they each gain a sense of accomplishment and become motivated to push themselves even more to learn.

One way to encourage student success is to offer a myriad of courses to enhance and support core academic classes and skills.

By asking for student, parent, and faculty input, RHHS has added elective courses while phasing in the new Georgia Performance Standards.

Students know the faculty is listening to their requests, and parents appreciate the attempt to reach our increasingly diverse population by linking our community and school even further. For example, many of our students are from military families and have lived all over the world, especially in Europe. In addition to French and Spanish, we now offer German; students have rushed to sign up for this new course and not just students who spent time living in Germany.

In addition, courses have been added to each content area giving students choices for electives while allowing them to explore interests, have an outlet for a specialized talent, fine-tune creative expression, and possibly foster a career in the future.

When students feel vested in their own education, they choose to perform well on a daily basis. Learning becomes more meaningful.

Student achievement has always been the driving force at Richmond Hill High School, but even the best educators need to practice what they preach and constantly search for ways to improve classroom instruction.

Implementing the new Georgia Performance Standards has been the nudge to remind many that teaching must always be dynamic to reach all students. The best teachers are those who stay fresh and want to learn themselves.

By modeling this passion for learning, teachers serve as role models and catalysts for change inspiring students to set even higher goals. Student achievement is already improving at Richmond Hill High School and the best is yet to come.

 

By Aimée C. Taylor, curriculum resource director for Richmond Hill High School.

 

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