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Clayton County students prepare for retesting

By Greg Gelpi

Third-grader Ira McGuire is one of hundreds of students dreading Friday and the Criterion Reference Competency Test.

"I really don't want to do it," McGuire said. "I'm afraid that I won't pass."

A group of students who failed the test early this spring will retake it Friday. Those who pass will advance to fourth grade, those who did not retake the test will repeat the third grade and those who fail a second time can appeal the test results.

Of the 3,962 third-graders who took the test, 531 failed. Statewide, of the students who took the test, 91 percent passed. In Clayton County, 87 percent of the students passed.

"I think (summer school) should be a little bit longer," said McGuire who is using this time to prepare for the test. "You have to learn it in three weeks. It's a lot of pressure on us kids."

After attending the half-day summer school program, his mother, Janet McGuire, continues to prepare him for the test.

Downloading previous copies of the CRCT, sample tests and test-taking materials from the Clayton County Public Schools and state Department of Education Web sites, she tests her son repeatedly and feels confident that he will do well.

"As far as summer school, it's going great," she said. "I can see where it is really helping him prepare for the test."

The advantage of summer school is being able to work in small groups, said third-grade teacher Chelsia George, who is leading one of the classes at Callaway Elementary School. Teachers can address needs of the students in a more individualized setting.

"A lot of students need a lot of one-on-one," George said. "They are more focused in summer school. I feel like I am really getting to them by giving them the special attention."

She said that the third-graders know why they are there and are focused on doing well on the CRCT, and after administering practice tests and getting good scores she is confident that they will.

There are eight sites in the county for elementary summer school. Not all of the students are there because of poor testing, though. Some are there for enrichment.

Sharon Kirkwood, a teacher of 27 years, is heading one of the third grade enrichment programs at Callaway.

"They've already informed me, saying ?We're here because we want to be here,'" she said.

Using interactive games she is able to "raise the bar" and "get the job done," Kirkwood said.

Third-graders who don't pass the reading portion of the CRCT Friday will have the opportunity to file an appeal with the school system. If the appeals committee reverses the decision, the student can advance to the fourth grade.