Lawrence Co. pupils score high in testing

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 20, 2004

MONTICELLO – Topeka-Tilton Attendance Center’s fifth-placeranking statewide in sixth-grade math was the Lawrence CountySchool District’s highest placement statewide, but growth was seenin virtually all areas of the Mississippi Curriculum Test, schoolofficials said.

Editor’s note: This is a continuation of a series analyzingarea school districts’ Mississippi Curriculum Test scores.Brookhaven and Wesson Attendance Center will be highlighted incoming days.

The sixth-grade math class at Topeka-Tilton placed fifthstatewide with 96.2 percent of their students scoring at theproficient or advanced levels of the MCT. Only 39 out of thestate’s 357 schools had 90 percent or more of their students atthose levels.

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The biggest gains, however, were in other areas of the district,according to Sharon Dungan, federal programs and testingcoordinator.

“The biggest gain we had anywhere, districtwide, was in seventhgrade language,” she said. “The second highest was in eighth grademath.”

Seventh grade language scores jumped 21.2 percent districtwidewhile eighth grade math improved by 16.7 percent.

Districtwide, Lawrence County math scores were higher than thestate average. Four of the seven grades tested also showedconsiderable improvement in reading and language.

“The majority of our district scores increased from 2003 to2004,” Dungan said.

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.

“The third and seventh grade benchmarks were really impressive,”Dungan said.

The third and seventh grade MCT scores are especially importantbecause they are used to evaluate school and student performance.Students must pass the MCT at the third and seventh grades beforethey can proceed to a higher grade.

The district still has a few problem areas to address, she said,citing an 18.8 percent population in the minimal category in eighthgrade reading and a 13.7 percent population in seventh grademath.

“Those numbers are significant, but students are moving fromthose lower proficiency categories to the higher ones,” Dungansaid. “We’re progressing well. Those numbers were higher last year.We’re very pleased with our progress so far.”

Monticello Elementary

Monticello Elementary, which teaches grade two through four,scored exceptionally well, Dungan said.

More than 90 percent of students are at or above the proficientlevel in all areas except fourth grade language arts, which had78.8 percent achieve the same levels.

In addition, a majority of the students placed in the advancedcategory in second grade language and in third grade math. Secondand third grade math had no students score in the minimalcategory.

“We’re doing real well there,” Dungan said. “Now we just need tomove those basic students into proficient and we’ll have alreadymet No Child Left behind.”

Rod Paige Middle School

The middle school also showed considerable progress, butstumbled in eighth grade reading scores.

That should change soon, Dungan said. The district had notconcentrated on teaching reading to the upper grades as theyfocused in other areas, but school officials intend to increasereading across the curriculum in eighth grade this year.

“These test scores indicate that we need to have more emphasison reading through the curriculum from the lower grades up to theeighth grade,” she said.

New Hebron Attendance Center

New Hebron had the furthest to go to meet No Child Left Behindstandards when they were introduced in 2002 and have impressedofficials with their progress each year since.

“New Hebron has made tremendous progress over the years andcontinued to make great strides this year,” Dungan said. “Theirtest scores are significantly higher than last year.”

Only four classes scored above 9 percent at the minimal levelthis year. Fifth grade reading posted a minimal population of 12.7percent, eighth grade reading had a population of 10.8 percent,fifth grade language posted a population of 16.4 percent and sixthgrade math had 15.2 percent score in the minimal category.

The school still has a large basic level population at nearlyevery grade and category, but populations are rapidly climbing intohigher levels, Dungan said.

Topeka-Tilton Attendance Center

In addition to the recognition Topeka-Tilton is receiving forits second grade math, the sixth grade math class should alsoreceive special recognition, she said.

In sixth grade math, 73.1 percent of the students scored at theadvanced level while only 3.8 percent scored at the basic level.There were no minimal scores.

Third grade math also performed well, with 97.2 percent scoringat the proficient or advanced level with no minimal scores.

The upper grades, however, will receive more attention thisyear. In the seventh grade, approximately 35 percent scored at theminimal or basic level while in eighth grade it reached 40 percent.The upper grades also scored poorly in reading, with more than 37%of seventh graders scoring the lower categories and nearly 49%percent of eighth graders doing the same.

The seventh and eighth grade scores are not limited toTopeka-Tilton, however, and reveal an area receiving scrutinystatewide.

“Those are tough grades for students,” Dungan said. “It’s notjust the academics, but it’s also a rough stage in their lives witha lot of distractions.”