Mixed results seen in city school ratings FIRST IN A SERIES

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 26, 2000

The Mississippi Report Card offered a mixed bag of results forthe Brookhaven School District, said Superintendent Dr. SamBounds.

“There are some real good things and some not so good things,”Bounds said.

In the report card, which represents the 1998-99 school year,the city school district had an accreditation level of three, whichmeans the district is successful, on a five-point scale. Level 5 isconsidered excellent, Level 4 advanced, Level 2 warned and Level 1means probation.

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In discussing results, Bounds said school officials are neverhappy when students score below state average in subject area andother testing. An example of that was in Functional Literacy Examtesting were students scored below the state average in the readingand math aspects of the test.

“That just shouldn’t happen,” Bounds said, although studentssurpassed state average in the writing category.

Addressing the needs of the lowest-scoring students appears tobe working.

The district’s percentage of students scoring in the lowest 25percent compared to statewide totals was below state average in theFLE, Algebra, U.S. History and Biology, but above the state in ACTresults. The lowest quartile, or Q1, refers to the percentage ofstudents whose scores on a test fell in the lowest quarter of totalscore distribution in the state.

“We’ve done a good job of improving students in the lowestquartile, which is a plus,” Bounds said.

In the Algebra area, Bounds was especially pleased with resultsfrom Alexander Junior High School where students averaged 310 onsubject area tests, almost seven points above state average, andonly 5.6 percent ranked in the lowest quartile. Results in the samearea at Brookhaven High School, though, dipped below the stateaverage and the lowest quartile percentage was higher.

“We’ve got to do a better job with our older students in Algebra1, motivating them and teaching them,” Bounds said.

In addition to a review of subject area test results, the annualreport card also compares the state’s 152 districts in a variety ofareas, such as student expenditures, attendance percentages, courseoffering totals and graduation rates.

A bright spot for the Brookhaven School District is its numberof Carnegie Units, which are course offerings that count towardgraduation.

The report card credited the district with 105.5 unit offerings,which placed the district within the top 25 in the state. Since theyear covered by the report card, Bounds said the unit total hadrisen to 110.

“That really gives students a well-rounded choice of classes totake,” Bounds said.

The district also ranked well in the student to teacher ratio.The district’s 14.94 ratio was below the state average of 15.72 andplaced the district at No. 46, in the top third of the state.

The city school district was also ahead of the curve in theareas of attendance enrollment and graduation rate.

At 97 percent, the district’s attendance as percentage ofenrollment was above the state average 96.59 percent state averageand ranked the district 66th. Stressing the value of attendance anda continued focus by educators, Bounds said students cannot learnif they are not in the classroom.

The district’s graduation rate was 77.22 percent, almost threepoints above the state average of 74.33 percent. The district’srate placed it 70th statewide.

In financial matters, the report card showed total per pupilexpenditures of $5,321, which was above the state’s $5,120 average.The district’s category ranking was 60th.

The district placed in the top third in the state in propertyvalues per student, $29,796, and in the overall operational taxlevy, 44.94 mills. The district was 38th and 41st, respectively, inthose categories.

The district’s percentage of funds spent for administration wasabove state average. According to the report card, the districtranked 108th, spending 4.05 percent on administration compared to astate average of 3.28 percent.

“We’re working on that,” Bounds said about efforts to try toreduce the percentage.

The state is in the process of developing new testing criteriafor students, schools and districts.

“We’re all anxious to see how it works,” Bounds said, addingthat the tests will more tied to school curriculum and how studentsprogress. “We’re supposed to be testing what we’re teaching,”

Bounds said exams like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) arebased on national norms. The testing model will be more state-basedand related to what’s supposed to be taught in the classroom.

The new tests, Bounds said, will show how well students arelearning what they need to learn. Tests will also allow for bettertracking of student progress from one grade to the next and howwell teachers are instructing the students.

Students will start taking the new tests in April, toward theend of the school year, Bounds said. That is a departure fromcurrent exams that test students in October.

Mentioning new state education plans, Bounds said the FLE willbegin to be phased out in the 2001-02 school year and new subjectarea testing for algebra, history and biology will be implemented.When fully implemented, expected wit the graduating class of 2006,Bounds said students will have to pass all the subject areatesting.

“Graduation will be tied back to subject area testing,” Boundssaid.

TOMORROW: The Lincoln County SchoolDistrict.