Thursday, August 26, 2010
County scores improve
By BARRY BURLESON
The latest test data released Friday has Marshall County School District administrators smiling.
But they also know they cannot rest on the improvements shown by students during the 2009-10 year.
“Districtwide, in almost every subject, our achievement level was up,” said Jerry Moore, deputy superintendent of education and testing coordinator. “Everybody has a lot to be proud of right now - thanks to lots of hard work.
“The challenge is not staying where we are but moving forward. We are at the national average academically now, but want to move above it next year, and that’s what we’ve been hammering home this summer to our principals and teachers.”
Subject Area Tests are given to high school students as they complete Algebra I, Biology, English II and U.S. History. The English II exam includes a writing assessment.
Marshall County’s percentage of students passing was near the state average in all areas, with the exception of English II.
“We saw gains in points at all three schools (Potts Camp, H.W. Byers and Byhalia) in English II but not the gains we wanted,” Moore said. “We have to meet growth numbers, too.
“Our kids are scoring higher on the ACT in English than they are on the state curriculum test, and that should not happen.”
Sixty-eight percent passed English II statewide and 57.1 percent in the Marshall County district. Potts Camp students performed best – 74.1 percent passing with 46.3 percent scoring proficient or advanced.
“The passing rate is part of the national model - No Child Left Behind - while the state model looks more at proficient and advanced,” Moore said. “In English II, we had issues districtwide.”
But the positives certainly outweighed any problems districtwide.
For instance, Byhalia High School had been in school improvement due to low Algebra I scores, but no more. Sixty-eight percent passed with 59 percent scoring proficient or advanced.
“They nailed it this time around,” Moore said. “It’s exciting.
“Algebra I across the district was high, as was Biology.”
All Potts Camp test takers (100 percent) passed Biology. Ninety percent of H.W. Byers students passed Algebra I and 91 percent Biology.
Districtwide, Algebra I scores were way up, Biology and English II up and U.S. History stable.
“A lot of the reason we showed improvement had to do with things we put in place four or five years ago,” Moore said.
One boost has been internal testing that holds everyone accountable throughout the school year. Teachers will administer practice tests early in the school year and then again in January.
“Every teacher knows where every student is academically,” he said. “They know where a student began academically and how much they have grown before the state testing comes around.”
The Mississippi Curriculum Test is divided into language and math sections and is given to students in third through eighth grades.
“Looking at our scores, we’re pleased with the increases in math and language overall districtwide,” Moore said. “We’ve crept up in the last few years, but we also know it is not enough.”
One big highlight came at Potts Camp, where sixth grade math scores were the best in the state (see separate story). Almost 94 percent scored proficient or advanced.
“That was actually no surprise,” Moore said. “Mrs. (Vickie) Teel’s class has been in the top 10 the past 10 years, and second one year. We felt eventually she would be the best in the state and she was. Her style of teaching is excellent and the kids are buying in. It’s huge for Potts Camp and our district.”
He said he is also extremely proud of Galena School, which “made huge jumps academically from last year – the largest of any school in the district.”
Moore also said Byhalia Middle School showed really good improvement.
“There’s a steady growth pattern there,” he said.
He said the testing is to a point now where the concerns are manageable.
“We can focus more on the problems and correct those, whereas several years ago we had a vast array of issues academically,” Moore said.
The results of state tests will be used to rank schools and districts from Star to Failing under the state’s accountability model. Those results will be released in September.
Last year four county schools were at risk in certain areas, and Moore says it’s likely three of those four have improved to the point where that label will be removed. He also expects the district as a whole to be performing at the national average.
“It’s not just about the accountability factor,” he said. “It’s also making sure our children are in a safe environment where they can learn. Our children have bought into that.
“We have the right personnel in place and our students are buying in. The community must buy in as well. We’re changing things.
“There’s a direct tie here to the county’s economy, too. It’s all connected. That’s an awesome responsibility for our teachers and students, but we’ve progressed enough academically the past several years to see that we can make it happen.”
Don Randolph, superintendent of education, said it was an exciting year (2009-10) with achievement test scores going up.
He expects good news, likely a higher district rating, when those ratings are released in September.
“Our goal is to reach the rating of ‘High Performing’ and ‘Star’ schools at the end of the 2010-11 school year,” Randolph said.
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