Golden Triangle school districts maintained their ratings for the 2015-16 school year despite facing a third new test in three years.
Mississippi Department of Education released the accountability results today for schools and districts.
Lowndes County School District maintained its B rating; Columbus Municipal School District maintained its D rating; and Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District’s rating remained a C.
The ratings, according to MDE, represent how well students performed in English language arts, math, U.S. history and science. They also take into account graduation rate, dual enrollment, ACT scores and a school’s performance against expectations.
Administrators with each district said they are pleased with the performance, despite last year’s Mississippi Assessment Test (MAP) being the third test in as many years MDE has used to measure districts.
CMSD Superintendent Philip Hickman said he’s very happy with his district’s growth, even if it hasn’t resulted in a higher letter grade.
The district earned 496 accountability points for the 2015-16 school year, which Hickman said is 127 points higher than 2014-15. He said CMSD was about 20 points from reaching a C rating.
“That’s pretty doggone good,” Hickman said. “For a district to grow 127 accountability points is amazing.”
Hickman said each of CMSD’s schools improved, though a change in scoring on at the state level prevented it from showing up in the ratings. Columbus Middle School grew by 98 points; Cook Elementary, 44; Fairview, 27; Franklin Academy, 62; and Stokes Beard, 210.
Even Columbus High School, which fell from a C to a D rating, scored higher than the previous year, Hickman said.
“Last year, the high school was 497 accountability points and was a C,” Hickman said. “This year we’re 520, and we’re a D, and we’re three points from a C. We grew, just like we said, but they changed the cut score — the finish line.”
If CMSD maintains its growth, Hickman said the district could reach a C or possibly a B rating in the near future.
CMSD’s graduation rate is up — improving to 79.8 percent from 70 percent in 2014-15. Dual-enrollment is also up.
Even so, Hickman said CMSD still needs to address some weaknesses.
“We could have gotten our 23 points [to reach a C] probably earned in science,” he said. “We had lower science scores. Our high school U.S. history scores were abysmal. We’ve moved some people in those areas and we’re meeting with the board to see what we can do about our science scores.”
Lowndes County School District Assistant Superintendent Robin Ballard said the district is proud to maintain its B rating, but she admits its schools still have work to do.
West Lowndes High School dropped from a C in 2014-15 to an F for 2015-16. Ballard said the school experienced teacher and administrative turnover last year, but the district has different leadership and new teachers in place.
LCSD has appointed Stefanie Jones, who Ballard said has worked at high-performing schools in the district, as principal of the school.
It’s also named Eric Guerrero, who Ballard said routinely has some of the district’s highest algebra scores, assistant principal.
Beyond that, she said the district will conduct quarterly assessments to help monitor student progress throughout the year. She also said people from her office and LCSD Superintendent Lynn Wright will be at the school often, conducting walkthroughs, unannounced visits and checking lesson plans.
“We know those numbers are going to turn around,” she said.
Ballard said LCSD is also hopeful that MDE sticking with the same test will introduce some stability, which should ultimately help students and teachers as they prepare for testing this year.
“We want to be an A district,” she said. “We’re 63 points away from it.”
SSD Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, Secondary Curriculum and Instruction, and Technology David Baggett is encouraged by the district’s 2015-16 performance, especially since it was the first year since the former Starkville and Oktibbeha County school districts consolidated.
“Under the first year of consolidation, we’re extremely pleased with where we ended up,” Baggett said.
Baggett said the district as a whole will use the test data to determine if there are any overarching themes across all the schools. For example, he said schools across the district need to improve their English language arts scores.
Each school can use the data, he added, to identify focus areas. From there, teachers can look at scores and see where individual students were strong and areas where they need help.
“It starts at a district level,” he said. “But from there, you’ve got to keep working down to the individual students, their strengths and weaknesses and what interventions you can do to strengthen those,” he said. “When you look a district with 5,000 students, some people can get overwhelmed, but I use the old adage that it’s like eating an elephant–you do it one spoonful at a time.”
East Oktibbeha County Elementary received an F rating for the year. However, that school is no longer open. The East Oktibbeha K-5 students began attending Sudduth, Henderson Ward Stewart or Overstreet elementary schools in August.
Beyond that, Baggett said the results showed SOCSD where the district is performing well.
“From a science standpoint, we were pretty strong,” Baggett said. “West Elementary had the highest with 68 percent proficient. All schools did well in their science scores. We’re also doing a good job across the board in our schools in reaching the bottom 25 percent of students and making sure they’re reaching growth.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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