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Test results show less room for improvement

WESSON — Officials at Wesson Attendance Center expressed someconcern about results released Mississippi Curriculum Test scoresreleased Wednesday by the state Department of Education.

“We’re pleased, but we would like to do better,” said BillyBritt, school principal. “We had more gains than we did losses, butthe amount of the losses was more than that of the gains.”

Improving scores becomes more difficult as schools get closer toreaching the pinnacle of state accreditation ranking, he said.Schools are rated on a five-point scale with one being the lowestand five the highest. Wesson is a level four school.

“We’re striving to become a level five school school with oursecondary goal to be a level four with growth,” he said. “That wasour disappointment this year — that we didn’t have the growth wewanted.”

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 and school accreditation levels. Thoseresults will be released in September.

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.

Wesson’s MCT scores reveal few students in the minimal category,regardless of grade or subject. Only seventh grade reading and mathposted a population of more than 10 percent at minimal levels andonly six of the 21 categories showed a population of more than 5percent.

“I would like to think that it is an indication of goodteaching,” Britt said.

Those scores, coupled with the school’s accreditation level,however, make it difficult to show continued growth, he said.Already strong students must become stronger for improvements tobecome apparent.

“Once you’re a level four, all they really look at is theproficient and advanced for growth and evaluation,” Britt said.”But I think what we do in the minimal and basic categories arejust as important. I don’t think we should lose our focusthere.”

For instance, he cited the seventh grade as an area that stillneeds improvement. Although 44 percent of the students there postedmath scores at the advanced level, more than 17 percent scored atthe minimal level.

“We had some improvement in our seventh grade, but it’s hardsometimes to get them to focus,” Britt said. “Oftentimes, it seemswith seventh and eighth grade students that they are here foranything but education. But, we improved in that area. We wereactually very pleased with our results in those grades.”

Some of the success of their program, he said, could beattributed to a Wednesday afternoon program. The school releasesstudents at 1:40 p.m. on Wednesdays, but teachers remain at theschool. During the first semester, teachers hold staff developmentworkshops to plan their classes together in a team environment.

“During the second semester, we don’t get out early but theafternoons are focused on teaching and tutoring the state’s skillpackage,” Britt said.

Most of the credit, however, can be shared by the students,community and school, he said.

“It takes everyone. Our parents make sure the kids are here andwork with them at home,” he said. “We have the full cooperation ofour students and parents, and the faculty worked hard.”