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School chief tours middle school
Barge celebrates systems success
1 State School Superintendent pic
Principal Mark Merges, left, welcomes State School Superintendent John Barge to Dawson County Middle School on Thursday. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

It's not uncommon to see Dawson County's superintendent walking the halls of a local school.

However, some Dawson County Middle School students and staff were in for a shock Thursday when Keith Porter was joined by Principal Mark Merges and State School Superintendent John Barge to observe some classes.

Barge came to the school after it posted one of the highest score averages in the state on the CRCT, or Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

"The biggest incentive we have for these schools right now is really bragging rights," Barge said. "If they are doing some things here that we think is really working and really awesome, we'll go and share them with other places and send folks here."

The CRCTs are standardized tests that measure students' skills and knowledge on the state mandated content standards in reading, English/language arts, math, science and social studies.

The state average in 2012 was 85.43 percent. Dawson County Middle scored in the 92nd percentile, with most students meeting or exceeding the standard score.

"I can't take any credit for any of this," Merges said. "This is a great school and a great staff and they're the ones that made this possible."

Porter, however, was quick to give some credit to Merges.

"One thing that Mark did when he first got here that's made this school better for it is that he made sure all of his teachers are gifted endorsed," he said.

"That took some time and money, but 98 percent of the teachers here are [gifted] certified. It raised expectations. And those strategies for those gifted students are the strategies we want to use for all the students."

Merges said that it is this higher expectation from his students that pushes them to succeed.

"We do a lot of things, but we stay consistent and we have high expectations for our students. I think that's the key," he said. "You can do as many things as you want and start all these new programs, and it's not going to work if you're not consistent."

According to Barge, the expectations are showing in the data he sees from the school system.