Northwest Georgia's picturesque Vann's Valley is home to the Georgia School for the Deaf (GSD), Georgia's only residential school serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Established in 1846, GSD enjoys an expansive campus of 480 acres in the small community of Cave Spring. The relationship between Cave Spring and GSD is unique because many residents and business owners are able to communicate with sign language. The school offers high quality educational and extracurricular activities that prepare its graduates for further academic, social, and career success. This is achieved in a fully-accessible American Sign Language (ASL)/English bilingual environment, which recognizes ASL users as a distinct cultural and linguistic group. This in turn fosters a positive self-acceptance and self-esteem, affording each student the ability to effectively navigate the world they encounter beyond their K-12 experience
We recently spoke with School Psychologist Connie Morris about how USATestprep fits into GSD curriculum and the outcomes they’ve seen.
USATP: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s always intriguing to learn how different populations of students use our platform. To start, can you tell us a little about GSD? How many students do you serve?
CM: Sure. We fluctuate in size, but right now we’re approximately 70 students and 17 teachers.
USATP: And when/how did you first start using USATestprep?
CM: I started working on our assessment program in 2007 and I was looking for useful tools to assist with benchmarking. The school was already using USATP in one area, and I liked that it offered built-in remediation. We originally started with it for our high school students but now we use it for all grade levels.
USATP: What are some of the highlights of the platform that you think work well for your students?
CM: Oh, so many! I love how interactive and versatile it is. Our teachers use it for print, interactive games and so much more. And USATestprep on a Smart Board is just amazing. It’s also simple. The students and teachers can sign up, change or update their profiles, and it frees up a lot of time for me.
USATP: And as far as benchmarking capacity--
CM: My favorite feature is the data analysis we get with the standards. The platform takes all of the information, not just from the assessment test but from all the activities, so we get a really clear understanding of where students are struggling or need additional support.
USATP: Do you think it’s improved classroom learning?
CM: I’ve noticed a difference in rigor in the classroom. As our teachers are more frequently exposed to questions and items similar to what’s found on the state assessment, they continue to hone their teaching skills.
USATP: How do you train your teachers on the platform?
CM: We’ve been using USATP for so long that we do a lot of in-house training. New teachers see me to learn about benchmarking and Jamie, our instructional coach, can show them the ropes on how to use most everything else.
USATP: What do students find most useful about the platform?
CM: For our students, I would say that having multiple opportunities to learn material in different ways can make a big difference in learning and retention.
USATP: Do your teachers use USATestprep every day in their classrooms?
CM: I’d say it depends on the teacher and their content area. But that’s one of the things we like--that it gives our teachers flexibility in when and how they want to use it.
USATP: Last question. If you could keep just one feature of the platform, what would it be?
CM: The data analysis that comes with the standards. It’s so simple to get a holistic view of what’s going on with a student and then provide them the support they need.
Many, many thanks to Ms. Morris and all the teachers and staff at the Georgia School for the Deaf. We wish you and your students a wonderful year of learning!