Thursday, September 6, 2007
Marshall County schools optimistic about progress
By SUE WATSON
With some good grades in the record book for the last school year, Don Randolph, superintendent of Marshall County Schools, thanked the staff for the hard work they did to improve the district.
“Education is planning for change,” he said. “I asked our teachers to engage every student in a meaningful way this past year. They accepted that challenge and our achievement levels rose. Still, we have not reached our goal. We are resetting our vision to open up even more education possibilities to our students during the upcoming school year.”
Marshall County School District employees got a closer look at the progress made last year thanks to a summary of progress made available to the schools a week ago by Jerry Moore, curriculum coordinator.
He reviewed progress and areas that need to be improved to keep the district on an upward trend this year in a school by school review.
Henry Elementary School was divided into elementary and middle schools in 2005-2006 in order to pinpoint some of the areas where improvements are needed, Moore said. Each school was given a separate name and assigned a principal last year.
For the first time in six years, Byhalia Elementary School met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) objectives in reading, language arts, math and attendance/reporting, four areas where AYP is tracked for reporting by the district to the state department of education.
School administrators were sad to report that Byhalia Elementary School’s level was lower than expected, Moore said. The district has recruited new teachers for this school the last two years with six new hires added this summer.
“We are hoping with new recruits and more money spent there, that the level will improve,” he said. “Kids College, a computer software based intervention program, is available for every student at the school this year.”
Byhalia Middle School
The middle school also met all AYP objectives in all areas - the first time in six years, Moore said.
He explained that the 70 percent (transient rule) applied by the state department of education is hurting both the Byhalia Elementary and Middle Schools in meeting their attendance/reporting goal of tracking student growth.
The rule means that a student must be in attendance in a school for 70 percent of the school year in order for their test (AYP) scores to be included in a school’s yearly progress report.
Sixty-four students at the Middle School were not included in the school’s growth model because they were not enrolled 70 percent of the school year, he said.
“This cost us (Byhalia Middle School) a level,” Moore said. “There is an attendance problem at BMS and parents need to help us with this.”
Moore said in order to include the scores, the school has to be able to track the student as a transfer to another school. If it cannot, the student’s scores cannot be included and he believes some students who were performing well in reading, language arts, and math did not have their scores included in this year’s level due to failure to record accurately every student’s transfer record.
Byhalia High School
The school met AYP in English and graduation rate/attendance last year but did not meet the objective in Algebra I, Moore said.
“We were very disappointed,” he said.
In year 2005-2006 the school did not meet AYP in English, but corrected the problem in 2006-07.
“So, now we have another problem - mathematics,” Moore said.
Byhalia High school gained a little ground last year moving from a level 3.2 to a level 3.5 school.
“So, we’ve made progress,” Moore said.
The school didn’t make progress or lose any ground in level coming in at a 3.2 level for achievement the 2006-07 year.
However, Galena met reading, language arts, math and other indicators for a third year in a row, Moore said.
“We’re proud Galena was able to remain where they were, basically, but we need to show improvement there this year,” he said.
H.W. Byers Elementary
H.W. Byers Elementary School was split off from the rest of the school for administrative purposes last year. The school met all AYP objectives and other indicators for the second year in a row last year and moved its achievement score up from level 3.0 to 3.43.
H.W. Byers High School
The school met all AYP achievement objectives last year except for its target graduation rate set at 72 percent, coming in six percentage points below target.
The graduation rate tracks students over a four-year period, Moore said.
He said there could have been too many students drop out or the students could have transferred to another school and not coded correctly when transferring.
“We still have to visit H.W. Byers High School and take a close look at their records to determine what happened with the graduation rate,” Moore said. “We are extremely proud that academics at H.W. Byers High School continues to rise, but we have to begin emphasizing attendance and tracking the drop-out rate. This will only get better with parent support.”
H.W. Byers High School raised its achievement level from 3.4 to 3.5, a slight gain, last year.
Mary Reid School
The school met all AYP objectives and other indicators for the fourth year in a row and raised its achievement level from a 3.7 to 4.8.
Moore said this level was “the highest jump” in the district with regard to growth in academics.
“Ms. Sanderson (principal) and her staff are to be commended for the enormous amount of growth that was shown last year,” he said.
Potts Camp School
The school, like Mary Reid, met its AYP objectives and other indicators for a fourth year running. The achievement level also gained, moving from a level 3.9 to a level 4.5 in achievement.
Moore said Potts Camp has prospects for being a Level 5 but growth was not sufficient from eighth grade on through the subject area tests.
Based on achievement alone, without the requirement to meet growth objectives which are raised every year, Potts Camp School is a Level 5 school, he said.
“Their achievement level without the growth model was over 5,” he said.
Moore said Marshall County Schools are on sound footing but must sustain the growth requirements set by the No Child Left Behind Act which are raised each year. He believes the schools can continue to show progress as required by accountability standards.
“We are extremely proud of the long hours our staff members have put in over the past year to cause such a positive increase in our test scores,” he said. “Yet, we know we have much work to do. We don’t want to become complacent and shortchange our students. So we are purchasing more software intervention programs, will continue to extend the school year, will diligently recruit new teachers, will evaluate our staff and programs each day, and will continue to provide high quality professional development to our assistants and teachers.”
Superintendent Randolph is proud of the enthusiasm at the schools this year.
“I have never seen so many teachers so excited about student achievement,” he said. “Enthusiasm amongst staff and students concerning academics is higher than I’ve ever seen it. I know we will continue this trend, and I invite and encourage anyone in the community to call us and set up a visit to our schools to see the programs and research-based instruction that is taking place each day.”
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