01/03/11 — Goldsboro High students scoring well on skills test

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Goldsboro High students scoring well on skills test

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 3, 2011 1:46 PM

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Debbie Grantham, right, a career readiness coordinator for the Wayne County Public Schools, congratulates Tyree Hooks, a ninth-grader at Goldsboro High School, for receiving the "gold" classification on the WorkKeys test. This is the first time the test was given to freshmen in the school system. At Goldsboro High, 22 students took the test. Tyree was the only one to earn the gold distinction, while 11 earned silver and 10 earned bronze.

As soon as Cameron O'Quinn learned he could win a $30 gift certificate to the local movie theater, he was on board.

Even if it involved preparing to take the WorkKeys career readiness test.

Educators have spent the bulk of the past semester working with about 45 ninth-graders at Goldsboro High School, prepping them for the test with three components -- applied math, locating information and reading for information.

The WorkKeys and CRC, Career Readiness Certificates, were introduced several years ago when businesses began considering what they needed in an employee and what would be required of each new hire, said Debbie Grantham, a career development coordinator with Wayne County Public Schools.

"They wrote a series of tests that they could administer to prospective employees to see if they had the skills they wanted when they were hired," she said.

Wayne Community College then wrote a grant to provide the tests to the schools free of charge. That was four years ago, when the test pilot program was introduced.

At the outset, the grant only covered administering the test to juniors and seniors.

"We listened to the kids," said Sudie Davis, director of Communities in Schools. "They told us that having this resource as freshmen would have made them better students.

"It's a great review for the students. What those kids told us was they had forgotten how to convert fractions into decimals and some of the things they had learned."

To test the theory that the underclassmen would benefit, when money was found in the district's curriculum budget, WorkKeys was made available for the first time to ninth-graders.

In addition to prepping them for the subjects covered on the test, there were other incentives for working hard and doing well, Mrs. Davis said.

"We promised them movie passes for the top three in each class -- a $30 gift certificate for first place, $20 gift certificate for second, $10 for third and a grand prize winner overall," she said. "The class that did the best overall would get a pizza party."

When it came time to do the testing, 22 students qualified to proceed.

To receive the top distinctions, though, would be another matter. To earn a bronze, students had to score a level of 3 or higher on all three parts of the test; a 4 or higher on all three parts earned a silver; and a 5 or higher on all 3 parts earned a gold.

"Of the 22 students that we tested, 100 percent earned a certificate," Ms. Grantham announced to the class earlier this week. "That's just amazing.

"To give you an idea of how wonderful that is, when GHS did this back when we gave it just to juniors, we tested 138 juniors and seniors. Only one student earned a gold certificate, so that's how hard these tests are."

The ninth-graders earned high marks, and high praise, for their hard work, said Mrs. Davis.

"Every one of these (22) kids got the CRC -- one gold, 11 silver and 10 bronze," she said.

Some only missed being in the next category by one point in a section or two, Ms. Grantham pointed out, telling the group they are eligible to retake individual sections to raise their score.

She also said that the national certification has no expiration date -- it used to only be good for five years -- and becomes part of the students' transcript.

Tyree Hooks, 14, was "shocked but happy" to get the gold distinction.

"Everything was hard but I think the reading was the hardest," he said. "The questions they asked were harder, they were critical thinking."

Math is admittedly the best subject for the student, who aspires to become a lawyer or an accountant.

"Even though I don't like reading as much, (the test) helped to improve my


There was one freshmen, though, who especially impressed the educators.

"We had a standout of all three classes that went above and beyond," said Ms. Grantham. "Not only did they do the testing in applied math, reading for information and locating information but they worked in every single one of those areas. They took every single test, all the way, every level."

"He only had to do three areas," added Barbara Wilkins, graduation coach at the school. "There were seven or eight areas and he went into every area and scored at the top."

The grand prize, a $50 gift certificate to the movie theater, went to O'Quinn.

"I'm ecstatic," he said afterwards. "I saw a goal, I saw something I wanted and I just went after it. ... I did this to prove a point. Apparently my hard work paid off."

O'Quinn, who plans to enter the military after graduation, appreciated the element of discipline.

It also didn't hurt that there was a prize involved.

"As soon as I heard about the chance to win $30 to go to the movies, I thought I would have a chance to take my family to the movies," he said.

When his name was not called out for any of the awards, though, he was initially puzzled.

"Then I noticed there was still one envelope left," he said.

That turned out to be the grand prize.

"Instead of the $30 I was planning on winning, I won $50," he said with a smile.

Backari Hamilton was pleased with his bronze distinction.

"I was surprised but I knew I would score well," he said.

He said his strongest subjects in school are Algebra I and English I honors, and that the test will definitely benefit him in the future.

"I probably will get a (better) paying job and most likely, if I'm out of a job, that certificate I can rely on because it will help me in the long run," he said.

O'Quinn said he also will build upon what he learned and better apply himself.

"Seeing what I have done and me working so hard, the reward that I got for doing this is accomplishing great motivation to do better in the future," he said.