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Students, staff like new calendar

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Friday, February 8, 2019

For the first time in recent years, high school students in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools took first semester exams before the winter break and the response to the experiment has been primarily positive.

Robin Griffin, director of accountability, testing and data analysis for the school district, presented results of surveys of staff members and students regarding this change earlier this week to the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education. The school district, which is limited by state calendar law, was only able to make the adjustment by shortening the first semester classes and having students attend school longer in the second semester, Griffin said. 

“This year, the students didn’t have to come back to school, readjust to school and then take exams,” she said. “The results of the survey were positive overall and the student surveys closely mirrored the teacher surveys.”

Roughly 93 percent of teachers agreed with the statement “I liked completing final exams before the winter break,” Griffin said. More than 82 percent of students agreed.

However, when teachers were asked if they felt they had enough instructional days to prepare students for exams, only 53 percent of teachers said yes. Students felt slightly more confident, with more than 55 percent agreeing with the statement, Griffin said.

“We have talked with staff about being more intentional with their planning moving forward if we keep this kind of schedule next year,” Griffin said. “They have to make adjustments for the shorter semester.”

Roughly 60 percent of teachers agreed with the statement “I do not think the shortened semester will significantly impact performance on end of course assessments,” Griffin said.

When asked by the board how tests results compared under the new plan, Griffin said it is hard to compare the semester of one year with the semester of another because of scheduling differences from year to year. The comparison will be easier at the end of the year, she said.

“My sense so far is that the test results looked no worse than in a traditional year,” Griffin said.

One issue that received disapproval was the way exams were scheduled this year, Griffin said.

“This year we did not do early release like we did in the past. High school students took an exam in the morning, and in the afternoon, teachers provided remediation and review for the exam they would take the next day. In the past, we could not do that because state law would not allow teachers to provide instruction on the same day they gave tests. But those restrictions have been lifted and Dr. Cockrell really wanted to take advantage of that this first semester,” Griffin said. 

Roughly 76 percent of teachers opposed the elimination of early release days during exams. Griffin said the response by students was similar, but she did not provide those results.

“It seems that people really like the early release,” Griffin said. “But I think that providing remediation and review was more efficient.”

School board member Evelyn Bulluck agreed because she said the review would force students to study and pay attention,

“Sometimes we need to show students some tough love to make sure they end up where they need to be,” Bulluck said.

At the February meeting, the school board also voted unanimously to support a resolution asking the state legislature to return control of school calendars to local school systems. The move, if finally approved after multiple attempts in the past, would allow the school district to begin the school year earlier, a move that would allow more time for instruction during the first semester while still allowing students to take exams before the holidays.

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