Former middle school principal Will Dunman has a grin from ear-to-ear: For the first time in two years, Rim Country Middle School has gone out of the failing range and into the passing range moving from a D school to a B school.
The reason for the two-grade bump?
Middle school AIMS scores show a significant increase from last year to this.
“These statistics show a huge gain between 2011-12 and 2012-13,” said Director of Student Achievement Brenda Case during a recent presentation. “Thank you, Will, and all the teachers that worked so hard. We don’t have a double D school.”
Scores in many areas remain below the state average, but the state rating system gives extra credit to schools that show improvement.
Last year, school officials agreed the district had done a good job addressing reading needs, but had a weak math improvement program.
Dunman attacked the problem by putting all students who did not pass AIMS math into an additional math class.
The results were stunning.
The percentage who passed the math test jumped in every grade: a 53 percent rise among sixth-graders; a 17 percent jump among seventh-graders; and a 37 percent rise among eighth-graders.
“These are enormous jumps,” said Case.
Reading scores in every grade improved as well: 8 percent in the sixth grade; 6 percent in the seventh grade; and 20 percent in the eighth grade.
Science held steady, with 75 percent of eighth-graders meeting or exceeding expectations.
Not only did Dunman double up on the math classes, he took responsibility for the students’ attitude about the test.
“What I see from students is that some take it seriously and others do not take it seriously,” he said last year after RCMS received a D. “And some students are not great test takers.”
To fix that attitude, Dunman launched an all-out campaign, event meeting students individually to stress the importance of the test. RCMS math teacher Nicole Ward talked about what Dunman did at the Aug. 26 school board meeting.
“With AIMS — with any test — the kids just struggle,” she said. “But I’ve never had an administrator like Mr. Dunman. He came into my classroom and spoke to every student. Mr. Dunman had them understand how their success (on the test) was important. He would be there for them, he wrote notes on their paper, they couldn’t wait to talk to him.”
During her presentation, Case tempered the jubilation by reminding the community that RCMS still has plenty of room to grow.
“Granted, they are not above the state median,” she said.
During the school board meeting, the board took a moment to recognize the achievement and give Dunman and his staff a round of applause.
“I’m very proud of the students,” said Dunman. “These students show what RCMS is made of. I’m equally proud of RCMS staff — the whole list. Again, thank you to the students and staff of RCMS middle school — we did it, we’re a B.”
Dunman has since switched jobs with Julia Randall Elementary Principal Rob Varner.