By Sarah Colson
Last Thursday night Ridgeview Elementary School’s girls’ basketball team won the Area 1 Championship game, leaving eighth-grade player Laken Jones elated.
But that trophy was just one of several Jones will add to her shelf this year. Jones recently learned that she achieved a perfect score on the 2015 TCAP Writing Assessment, earning a four in all categories of the statewide, standardized test.
Jones, who also runs track and cross country, and plays volleyball and softball, was one of seven in Tennessee to earn a perfect score. Jones said it took a strong love of reading and writing, some excellent teachers, and plenty of practice tests.
“I like to read books a lot,” she said. “And whenever I’m writing, I just get the feel for it and go on and on. It just flows.”
Jones said her favorite book is whatever she’s currently reading. Right now, that’s “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. Jones said she’s excited to follow in her older sister Haley’s footsteps at Daniel Boone High School next year.
“I would kind of like to write books like J.K. Rowling,” Jones said. But for now, she added, “I want to take every writing class Boone has.”
Assistant Principal J.W. McKinney said that at Ridgeview, reading and writing start in the lower grades and are interwoven into every subject at the K-8 school. Jones has been at Ridgeview since its inception eight years ago, so McKinney said she’s had plenty of time to integrate reading and writing into all subjects.
“Our teachers really focus on Language Arts because it’s the basis for every subject,” McKinney said. “If a student can’t read or write, they can’t do math, they can’t do science, they can’t do social studies. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in five or six years in TCAPs and Common Core and now we’re moving to TN Ready. I know there’s big opposition to Common Core, but if you look at how much students have changed and the amount of growth that we’ve seen at Ridgeview, it’s definitely had a positive effect on our students. What they’re doing in eighth grade now is what they were doing eight years ago as freshmen and sophomores.”
McKinney said Ridgeview has a teaching staff that’s on board with the importance of reading across all subjects. Jones had Rachel Sangid and Mary Jane Allen for seventh grade English and Language Arts and said although she can’t remember exactly what the TCAP writing prompts were, there is one thing she does remember.
“I was writing and I could hear Mrs. Sangid in my head saying, ‘don’t say the same thing over and over again,’” Jones said. “If you begin every paragraph with the same thing, it’s boring. So you have to pay attention and have a high vocabulary. I learned everything I needed to know about writing essays from Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Sangid.”
Allen, who’s also been at Ridgeview since the beginning, said the love of writing Jones has is not unique to her students, but her conscientious attitude and drive to succeed is.
“The biggest thing that contributes to Laken’s success is not necessarily who she is academically, but who she is as a person,” Allen said. “She tries to build that, ‘I’m going to be a student’ focus, instead of that ‘I’m just in school’ focus and that’s a huge transition in seventh grade. Up until that point, kids think they’re just in school. Then in seventh grade all of a sudden, it’s ‘I’m a student.’ That’s how you start to define yourself and Laken’s success has shown that she’s already taken on that difficult task.”
Jones said seventh grade was her favorite year, but she’s ready for more challenges in her near future. Allen said she expects “great things” from the bright, energetic teen.
“I just like to write about what happens in life,” Jones said. “Someone could give me a topic and I could go off on it. I could probably write a seven-book series on the first thing I saw.”
The editorial staff at the News and Neighbor would like to wish Laken, and all local students, a very happy spring semester full of wonderfully-written adventures.