School leaders see no surprises for Lawrence Co. THIRD IN A SERIES

Published 6:00 am Monday, October 30, 2000

MONTICELLO — There was a mix of good and bad results on the2000 Mississippi Report Card but nothing surprising, said theLawrence County School District’s top official.

“Nothing really surprised me because generally we have all thepieces, the report card just really pulls them all together andlets us know where we rank in the state,” said Superintendent JohnBull.

Bull said the worst result on the report was probably thedistrict’s ranking of 148 among 152 for percentage of teachers withadvanced degrees. That was down from a ranking of 144 in lastyear’s report.

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“We’ve always kind of been in bad shape there and I guess that’sjust because of location. We’re not near any major colleges,” thesuperintendent said. “We also have a lot of younger teachers whoare just now pursuing advanced degrees.”

Steps have already been taken to improve that situation, Bullsaid.

“We’re going to get some people with advanced degrees,” he said.”William Carey College has set up a branch here to offer thesedegrees to our teachers and those classes are averaging 30-35students per class.”

The classes have gotten off to a good start.

“We’ve really been overwhelmed by the response,” said Dr. SharonDungan, federal programs coordinator and former superintendent ofJefferson Davis County Public Schools.

Bull said the college offers its third class in the districtduring November. Those taking the current courses, Dungan said,should finish the program in 2002.

Mississippi Report Card 2000 actually reports on the 1998-1999school year, Bull said. There is a two-year delay caused by thetime it takes to compile and formulate the data.

On a positive note, Bull said he was proud of the district’sranking in the areas of special education budget, number of giftedstudents, graduation rate and average daily attendance.

The district was ranked 109 of 150 on the amount of federalfunds used for special education.

“The significance of that is that we are not overstating ourspecial education needs,” Dungan said. “There are a number ofdistricts who are under a mandate to cut back on their number ofstudents identified as special education.”

Dungan credited the district’s efforts to promote earlychildhood development as the element which keeps the amount offederal funds needed low.

By assisting parents in teaching their children at a formativeage, she said, they “do not get caught in the trap of being leftbehind” and the district has less students needing to be identifiedas special education students.

These early childhood efforts have also paid off in the numberof gifted students in the district. The state ranked 17th in thisarea with 15.16 percent to the state’s percentage of 6.87.

Lawrence County School District ranked 27th in its graduationrate, but Bull said that is a mixed blessing in terms of the reportcard. The district posted an 84.3 percentage of graduates to thestate’s average percentage of 74.3.

“We can certainly be proud of our graduation rate, but althoughthis reflects here as a positive it may reflect elsewhere as anegative,” Bull said. “It’s just the way you look at numbers.”

Bull said the district is proud that borderline students aremotivated enough by their teachers to stay and graduate, but thesestudents also affect the district’s performance on the FunctionalLiteracy Examination. The exam, which tests all students, is usedas a tool to show progress in a class of students.

FLE scores on the 2000 report card show the district slightlybelow the state average in all areas except biology.

“This was just one of those years when they’re low,” Bull said.”You have years like that. Years you just can’t explain why theydropped. The FLE is definitely an area where we have to have animprovement plan.”

The FLE, though, is in the process of being phased out and nolonger affects all students, Bull said. It is being replacedstatewide by the Subject Area Test Program (SATP).

Students who began 9th grade in 1999-2000 are required to passall three sections of the FLE and the SATP in U.S. History from1877. Those who are freshman in 2000-2001 must pass the mathematicssection of the FLE and are required to pass the U.S. History from1877 and English II SATP sections. Students who will graduate in2005 must do the same as well as pass the SATP’s Biology I.Afterwards, all students will be required to pass all four sectionsof the SATP.

Another testing system being phased out is the Iowa Test ofBasic Skills, which measures the growth of individual students.Bull said the district had been studying the ITBS for years.

“It will be Spring of 2002 before we can get a secondarydatapoint to measure the growth of a student,” Dungan said.

The district topped the state average in daily attendance. Thedistrict’s average of 97.22 versus the state’s 96.59 places it inthe top third of the state.

“If you can’t get them to school you can’t teach them, so we’reproud of that,” Dungan said.