Thursday, August 26, 2010
Best in the state
By SUE WATSON
Potts Camp is rocking this week as state curriculum scores arrived for the 2009-10 school year tests.
Teacher Vickie Teel is perhaps the most excited because her sixth graders last year earned the highest scores for math in the state - 93.7 percent of the class scored proficient or advanced.
Proficient shows mastery of the content and the skills required for success at the next grade level (this year’s seventh grade), while advanced means students are performing consistently beyond that required for the next grade level.
Last year’s sixth grade class also scored 77.1 percent proficient or advanced in language.
Teel said it was not an unusual class, the students just worked hard.
“You work, you work and you work - just what you do every year,” she said proudly. “I teach the way Chuck Poer coached us for testing – you prepare for (your team to play) the best team.”
Poer is a consultant who helps teachers get their students ready for the MCT 2 (Mississippi Curriculum Test).
Hard work and convincing students to believe they can do well on a 60-question math test is what it takes for them to succeed, she said.
She tells her students before they take the test, “As many math problems as we’ve done this year, you can’t tell me these 60 questions are going to get you this year.”
Principal Leigh Anne Sanderson is a huge support, as well as superintendent Don Randolph and deputy superintendent Jerry Moore, Teel said.
“Several years ago, my scores were good and Mr. Randolph asked how I did it and Jerry Moore said, ‘she doesn’t teach; she coaches,’” she said.
Not taking too much credit for herself, Teel said she is lucky she had good teachers who helped the class before she got them in sixth grade.
“We had excellent teachers at Mary Reid and Potts Camp to prepare them before I got them,” she said. “Mrs. Miriam Orman had this class in reading and language last year. We worked together 11 years and helped each other out.”
So, Orman gets credit for the good scores in language as well, having worked with the top team in the state last year.
Teel is a seasoned teacher who has spent 18 years in the elementary classroom. She taught one year at Galena in Chapter I reading, then six years at Marshall Academy junior high, before joining the Potts Camp school faculty where she has taught math the entire time.
Her classes have met the 90 percent proficiency level before, but this is the first year her students were tops in the state.
“I’ve been lucky,” she said. “We have always been good.”
The current math test is much more rigorous than the old test, which was given four years ago before the test was changed, she said. Some junior college students tell her the sixth grade is now studying problems in algebra that they are having in college.
“It is a lot of higher-level thinking,” Teel said. “They told me, ‘it was easy, it was easy.’ It is supposed to be easy. They were prepared. I didn’t feel nervous. They get used to test taking.”
Teel said her principal makes it easy to teach. Sanderson is there for the teacher to laugh and to cry with her.
“She celebrates with you,” she said. “And Coach Stone and Mr. Martin, (assistant principals) help so much.”
But good state test scores are not everything. It is important to see good report card scores, also, Teel said.
Today’s sixth grade and even the fourth and fifth grade levels in math are tackling much more advanced subject content, she said, including algebra, geometry and exponents.
“It’s mind boggling what they expect fourth, fifth and sixth grades to do now,” she said.
Teel does not allow her students to leave a homework problem blank; they have to attempt to solve every one or get a zero on the homework, she said.
“I demand they treat me with respect and do what I ask them to do,” she said. “We have a lot of fun. We do lots of fun things and they know this comes first. Usually they will say sixth grade is their best year.”
So, when it was announced that last year’s sixth grade math class got top scores in the state, Teel said she ran up the hill, burst into the seventh grade class and promised them cupcakes. There will be lots of celebrating this week with a newspaper article, the class’s photo in the paper and other activities to top the week off near the weekend.
Sanderson called Teel a “very hard worker and great motivator.”
Potts Camp has a reputation for being one of the best schools in the county academically, she said. Students did well in Subject Area Testing this year in biology and algebra.
“We are proud of their efforts and glad they (last year’s sixth grade) are getting the recognition they deserve. They are a good group of kids,” she said. “We are very proud of their scores - a testimony to their hard work and their abilities.”
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