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Lincoln County students make overall gains

Lincoln County School District students showed generalimprovement and placed above the state average in approximately 90percent of the Mississippi Curriculum Test categories. Districtofficials admit, however, they are concerned with some scores andhave launched a program to target those students early.

Editor’s note: This is a continuation of a series analyzingarea school districts’ Mississippi Curriculum Test scores. LawrenceCounty, Brookhaven and Wesson Attendance Center results will behighlighted in coming days.

“I think our schools did well, and I think we can be proud ofwhat we’ve done,” said Superintendent Terry Brister, adding that”every school has room for improvement.”

The MCT tests every student in grades two through eight inreading, language arts and mathematics skills. Besides providingeducators and the public with a glimpse at how their schoolscompare with others in the state. The scores are also used as partof a formula to tabulate Adequate Yearly Progress, a key element inthe No Child Left Behind Act. Those results will be released inSeptember.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, all students are evaluatedand placed within four major categories that determine theirproficiency – minimal, basic, proficient and advanced. Alldistricts much move their students from the minimal and basiccategories to the proficient or advanced levels by 2014 or facefederal sanctions.

“We had strong movement from the bottom two categories to thetop two,” said Richelle Ratcliff, the district’s curriculumcoordinator.

She attributed the gains to teachers focusing on the skillstested and intervening with students who appeared weak in thetargeted areas.

In reading, the district exceeded the state average of studentsin the minimal or basic levels in all grades except grade four,which showed more students testing at the basic level than theaverage. However, nearly 90 percent of the grade four studentstested at the proficient or advanced levels, a feat duplicated byall grades.

In language arts, the district exceeded the state average inminimal or basic skill testing at all levels. Third grade studentseven posted a majority at the advanced level.

In mathematics, the results were mixed. Lower grades postedresults that placed at least 80 percent of the students at theproficient or advanced standard, but grades seven and eightexperienced some difficulty, showing only 60 percent of thestudents at the same level.

“We realize that’s been a problem, and it’s been slipping,”Ratcliff said, adding that those grades were posing a problemstatewide.

Statewide averages confirm that only 54 percent of seventh gradestudents have reached the proficient or advanced level and nearly60 percent have done the same in the eighth grade.

“Seventh and eighth grades are difficult years for students, andsometimes they don’t perform like we think they should perform, butwe’re proud of all of our students,” said Bruce Falvey, director oftesting.

Seventh grade math, especially, was a problem district officialssaid they needed to target districtwide. Student percentages werenearly equal across all four categories at Bogue Chitto, only 45percent of students tested in the proficient or advanced levels atEnterprise and Loyd Star makes a sharp jump in the number ofstudents testing at the minimal level from sixth to seventhgrade.

West Lincoln, however, posted good scores in math. A majority ofseventh grade students tested at the advanced level with 43 percentin eighth grade did the same.

The district has developed a plan they hope will address thoseslipping scores, as well as improve on skills in other areas,Falvey said.

A tutoring program is being developed at each school to “targetthe weaker students and strengthen those skills,” he said. Teacherswill identify those weaker students with special or specific needsfor small group or one-on-one tutoring help in the afternoons.

“We want to get some retired teachers to help us on this,” hesaid.

Plans are for the students and tutors to meet twice a week.

“We think teachers would be appreciative of this because it willtake some of the burden off them while boosting the self-esteem ofthe student by helping them to succeed in the classroom,” Falveysaid.

Bogue Chitto

Scores at Bogue Chitto Attendance Center reveal several areasthat are close to meeting the No Child Left Behind standards.Upward movement was apparent in third grade reading and languagearts and second and third grade mathematics, where no studentsplaced in the minimal category. In addition, no students placed inthe basic category in third grade math and nearly 75 percentachieved advanced status.

“I was really pleased with third grade scores across thecounty,” Falvey said. “The teachers have done a real good at BogueChitto for the past several years.”

Enterprise

At Enterprise, few students scored at the minimal level, but thebasic level remained fairly well represented, with 11 of the 21tested areas in all grades posting a population of more than 20percent. However, only six of those had a population of more than25 percent.

Loyd Star

At Loyd Star, only the seventh and eighth grade math studentsposted a population in the minimal category of more than 8 percentand only three exceeded 5 percent.

Only 1.8 percent of the second grade reading scores were at theminimal level while there were no students at the basic level.

“Teachers encourage and read with the students every day there,”Ratcliff said. “We also had some smaller class sizes this year andthat’s a help.”

Third grade math posted similar scores, with no students at theminimal level and 2.7 percent at the basic.

The success of all of the district schools at the lowest gradesis not the result of a single year’s instruction, officialssaid.

“Those scores are not only a reflection on teachers at thatgrade, but also all the grades leading up to it. It really is ateam effort,” Falvey said.

Ratcliff agreed. “Kindergarten and first grade teachers havebeen doing a great job ensuring those students are prepared for thesecond grade.”

West Lincoln

At West Lincoln, third, fourth and fifth grade reading; third,fifth, sixth and eighth grade language arts; and third, fourth andfifth grade math all posted results with no scores at the minimallevel. In addition, fifth grade reading and third grade math alsohad no students score at the basic level and a majority score atthe advanced level.