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Brookhaven proud of kids’ achievement

A vast majority of students in the Brookhaven School Districtscored in the proficient or above category of the MississippiCurriculum Test in results released last week.

“Our school district as a whole is moving in a positivedirection,” said James Tillman, interim superintendent of theLincoln County School District. “We have a lot to be proud of instudent achievement.”

Although the district did post some scores that officials areconcerned about, they are generally satisfied with the results.

“The bottom line of all this is: How well did our studentsachieve? And we did well,” he said.

Tillman hopes a plan being developed by the schools to analyzeand target the trouble areas of each school will provide theimpetus to further improve those scores this year.

“Every school will be expected to continue to evaluate theirstudents during the year,” he said. “When a student shows someweakness in a particular area, teachers will be expected to addressthose needs.”

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 also are 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.

Regarding this year’s test results, the interim superintendentsaid he feels confident that adjustments being made at the statelevel to remove some students who don’t meet the requirements, suchas time in district, to qualify for the analysis will further boostthe district’s scores. Those results will be released in Septemberas part of the Adequate Yearly Progress and school accreditationreport.

“I think when everything is released you’ll find Brookhaven hasdone well,” Tillman said.

A problem endemic statewide with seventh and eighth-grade scoresslumping can also be found in Brookhaven’s results. Although morestudents are moving from the minimal and basic levels to the toptiers, a relatively high population of students remain at thoselower levels.

“There are some distractions at that age,” Tillman said. “That’sa transition phase in human growth and development from preteen toteenager and their world is opening some. They’re becoming moreindependent.”

Unlike students at that age in some other areas, however,Tillman said students here have help that is apparent as they moveup the proficiency scale.

“Our parents are doing a good job with our students during thistransitional period,” he said, citing a lower rate of juvenilecrime and other issues typical of urban areas.

“For the most part, probably 99 percent, the students come to uswith good moral character. Character counts,” Tillman said. “Andour parents want those children to do well. That’s not just limitedto those grades either.”

Urban areas in general and Brookhaven specifically alsotypically have a more diverse group of students than rural areas,he said. Brookhaven’s district runs the gamut of socioeconomicfactors, from under poverty families to those in the high middleclass to the “elite” and the difficulties associated with meetingthe needs of such a diverse group.

“In a lot of areas, the public schools are not as diverse as weare,” he said. “When you can take a diverse group of students andcarry them to a higher level, it really shows our educationalprocess is working.”

Brookhaven Elementary and Mamie Martin Middle School receivedspecial praise from the interim superintendent.

At Brookhaven Elementary, the population of students testing atthe minimal level was below 6 percent at every grade in the threetested areas. In addition, more than 80 percent of the studentstested at the proficient or advanced levels.

At Mamie Martin, 90 percent of the students tested insecond-grade reading and math were proficient or above with morethan 80 percent doing the same in language.

Second grade is the only grade tested at Mamie Martin, whichteaches students in grades from kindergarten to second grade.

“This is the first grade we actually put the students throughthe test and for them to score this well shows that the studentsare getting what they need at the lower grades to prepare them forthe tests,” Tillman said. “This validates our curriculum.”