File Photo — Eleven Gwinnett County Public Schools recently made the list of the top 25 performers for the Eighth Grade Writing Test. At number one in the entire state: Osborne Middle, with 33.4 percent of its test takers performing in the exceeds category. State Superintendent John Barge, seen here, visited the school last year to congratulate teachers and students on achieving the number one spot.
HOSCHTON -- Georgia's top education official thinks the world of Osborne Middle students.
Their performance on tests over the past several years is a big talking point for his colleagues at the state department of education.
State Superintendent John Barge was so impressed by the school's writing test scores that he dropped by Thursday morning to meet with the principal and talk with students.
For two years running, Osborne Middle has posted the top score in the state for the eighth grade writing test.
Barge wants to know their secret.
"It's important to come out and see these students and teachers and encourage them, but it's also important for me to get an idea of what they're doing to get the results they're getting," Barge said.
Added Barge: "These teachers and administrators are working incredibly hard, and they're important in getting those good results."
While the results of this year's eighth grade writing test have not yet been announced, the middle school has consistently topped the charts statewide. Osborne had the state's best test score for 2011 and 2010.
The importance of teaching good writing skills is not lost on Osborne Principal John Campbell.
He said at the middle school, students are encouraged to use their writing abilities throughout all subject areas.
"When kids have to write about a subject, they learn that subject at a much deeper level," Campbell said. "Writing requires that you organize your thoughts, putting them into a logical sequence that others can understand."
Osborne's emphasis on writing proficiency is working.
In 2011, with 493 students taking the test, about 33 percent exceeded standards for the test.
But Osborne is not the only local middle school that regularly posts top marks. North Gwinnett Middle School got second place in 2011 at the state level with about 32 percent exceeding.
Campbell said North Gwinnett Middle's academic prowess is "formidable."
"They've been nipping at our heels for a while now," Campbell said. "It's a friendly rivalry."
North Gwinnett Middle also has gotten the top score in the state for many years. "They do good work there," Campbell said. "I think competition is a very good thing, and if we're going to compete with somebody I prefer it's a fellow Gwinnett County School."
Barge said he's impressed by any school that can master the eighth grade writing test the way that the Hoschton middle school has.
"It's important to recognize the good work that's going on," Barge said. "When I'm talking with schools around the state that may be struggling with this test, I can say, 'have you seen what they're doing at Osborne?'