03/12/04 — School students on lockdown to study

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School students on lockdown to study

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 12, 2004 2:05 PM

Faced with potentially lower test scores, Dillard Middle School students followed an alternative approach to preparing for end-of-grade tests this week.

Since Monday, instead of eighth-graders changing classes, they have been required to stay in one classroom all day, with their teachers coming to them.

Students were allowed bathroom breaks, and lunch was brought in from the cafeteria. Otherwise, they could not leave the classrooms.

Olivia Pierce, executive director for community relations with Wayne County public schools, said the move was an effort to minimize distractions and keep students focused.

"When you change classes and have the opportunity to socialize, you do tend to refocus on non-instructional topics," she said.

With only nine weeks until the critical end-of-grade tests are given, Principal Tania Horton implemented the approach to help students get on track, Mrs. Pierce said.

"Last year she did it for one day, and it got their attention," Mrs. Pierce said.

Ms. Horton said students were told about the plan last week, and letters were sent home to parents Monday. Today was to be the last day for the schedule.

Mrs. Pierce said that Dillard does mock testing every nine weeks to identify any problem areas. Of the current group of eighth grade students, scores have been much lower than those of the previous year's eighth-graders.

"We found that three times the number of students were failing" this year as compared with last year, Ms. Horton said.

Concern prompted her to take action.

"Because of the state standards, that's what we need to focus on," she said.

She said the goal was to work on behavior management and provide a short-term intervention before final tests were given.

"Overall, the students have appreciated the discipline," Ms. Horton said. "Some students have even said, 'We like this.' They're not getting in trouble; teachers are moving from class to class.

"The only thing they don't like is not going to lunch."

School officials have also responded favorably. Mrs. Pierce said Superintendent Steve Taylor supported the approach to improving test scores.

Ms. Horton said that even though the change in scheduling ended today, she will continue to find ways to improve learning. Starting Monday, an after-school enrichment program will begin and run until the first week in May.

Called "Skate to Success," students can earn points in the classroom for completing work, doing homework and having positive behavior. Smaller groups can also meet with teachers after school to better prepare for the end-of-grade tests.