Banks County News

June 4, 2008

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By Chris Bridges

Motivation, quality teaching keys to success
It came as no surprise to me that the test scores from Banks County Middle School surpassed many of the systems in this area and across the state.
The Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) has gained plenty of publicity in recent weeks and most of it bad. However, the news was certainly not all bad at the local level as BCMS students seemed to handle the controversial test better than many.
State-wide, approximately 50,000 students failed and will be attending summer school and retaking the portions test before becoming eligible to advance to the ninth grade. BCMS, on the other hand, will have only a few students (less than 50) attending summer session.
Looking closer at the numbers sees almost 62 percent of state-wide eighth graders passing the math portion of the test. At BCMS, that pass rate was close to 80 percent.
What’s the secret to success at BCMS? Is it some magical formula put in the school lunches? Is it simply a stroke of good luck? Hardly.
You have to start at the top at BCMS with principal Matthew Cooper, who is the best educational motivator I have met. Cooper’s enthusiastic approach to learning is contagious. When listening to him speak at Board of Education meetings, I am ready to take out pen and paper and go to work. Motivation is so vital to any student, but especially at the middle school level. Cooper has what it takes to make learning fun but he also doesn’t let his students lose track of what’s important.
Testing of this nature can be very stressful. Many students who realistically know the material they are being testing on are apt to freeze up when they see the test in front of them. Cooper has found ways to take the stress out of testing (not just on the CRCT but in all aspects of daily learning). In the end, students are more relaxed and are able to excel on the CRCT.
BCMS is also blessed with quality teachers who implement Cooper’s game plan on education. Without the teachers, success would not be possible. The teachers put in countless hours of work. Their jobs go so far beyond the time they are actually in the classroom. They take high levels of pride in teaching the students and their ultimate goal is to see each one of them succeed at a high rate.
How well is the formula working at BCMS? Almost immediately after this year’s CRCT preliminary results were released, other school systems in the Northeast Georgia area were looking into visiting BCMS to see its game plan for success.
When you are successful year after year, you are obviously doing something right. Other educators realize this and will be making their way to Banks County to visit with Cooper and his teachers.
While parents in other school systems across Georgia have been protesting the poor CRCT results, the parents of BCMS students have to be pleased with how well their children are performing. Even with the state school superintendent throwing out results because they were so poor overall, students at BCMS were overall moving right along and continuing their past success.
It’s easy to criticize education officials when even the smallest of things aren’t to our liking. However, something very positive is taking place at BCMS. Students are excelling year after year. That’s something worth celebrating. A tip of the hat to Cooper and his teachers for all they have accomplished in helping their students succeed with each passing school year.
They deserve a high level of praise for all they have been able to accomplish. Other systems may be struggling, but the stars are shining brightly at BCMS.
Chris Bridges is a reporter for The Banks County News. Contact him at 706-367-2745 or e-mail comments to

By Jana Mitcham

Going by the wayside
As I was driving down the road last week, I noticed flashing blue lights and a caravan of cars heading toward me in oncoming traffic.
A funeral procession.
The driver of the car in front of me flipped on the blinker and pulled off to the side of the road. I did the same.
Because we were driving on a four-lane road, motorists who didn’t want to stop passed us by and kept on going about their business.
It’s an old tradition, that momentary show of sympathy for a family you likely don’t know and will never meet, but you know they are people who must be suffering at that time.
It’s a show of respect for someone who will never again meet a stranger or a friend.
It is an old Southern tradition — at least I thought so, although I’ve since heard of it happening in other parts of the country, as well — but it’s one that seems to be going by the wayside.
And quickly.
I watched as the cars sped past, one after the next, with drivers in a hurry to get on with their lives.
When I see that solemn procession, my throat feels tight. When I hear a siren or hear the report of a wreck come across the police scanner here at the paper, I have the same reaction, that sudden sense of impending doom for someone out there.
(After all these years of hearing the police scanner, I want to know what kinds of vehicles were involved. Could it have been someone I know and love?)
So, it’s not you or your family and you are thankful.
You are sympathetic.
Or, you zoom past, in a hurry, “invincible” in a sense.
I’ve read that in years past, people would get out of their cars and stand in silence as a funeral procession passed.
Granted, the roads are a lot busier than they used to be, so that’s probably not the wisest course of action these days, but I’ve read complaints that even having cars pull off the roadway as a funeral procession passes by is a hazard. Some people suggest that it is safer to merely slow down, rather than actually stop, although I can’t see how a slowly moving car would be less of a threat than a parked car to those whizzing past at the speed limit or above.
Some states have laws pertaining not only to the actual funeral procession itself, which is required to follow the rules of road, but also to how other motorists should proceed.
For example, in Tennessee, drivers say the law requires motorists in oncoming lanes to continue moving.
In Massachusetts, drivers report it is against the law not to pull over.
There goes that strictly Southern angle.
So, some people don’t pull over.
Or slow down.
But some even go so far as to pass members of the funeral procession, winding their way in and out of the line of cars driven by mourners.
In Georgia, that’s against the law.
Everywhere, it’s common decency going by the wayside.
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor of The Jackson Herald, a sister publication of The Banks County News. E-mail comments about this column to


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