Testing results show schools’ high, low points

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 23, 2005

While pleased with the overall scores on Mississippi CurriculumTest and Subject Area Test Program results released last week bythe state Department of Education, a Lawrence County SchoolDistrict official admits there is room for improvement.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articlesexamining in detail by school district the Mississippi CurriculumTest and Subject Area Test Program results announced recently.Other districts will follow.

Testing results in the district indicate that six of the 21 MCTtested areas are falling short of the state averages, and at thehigh school level only Biology I exceeded the state average.

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“We realize there are areas of deficiency that we need toaddress, but we’re pleased with the number of areas that we met orexceeded the state average,” Superintendent Russell Caudillsaid.

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 federal No Child Left Behind Act, all students areevaluated and placed within four major categories that determinetheir proficiency – minimal, basic, proficient or advanced. Alldistricts much move their students from the minimal and basiccategories to the proficient or advanced levels by 2014 or facefederal sanctions.

Districtwide, Lawrence County fell short primarily in languagearts, where grades three, five, six and eight failed to meet thestate average. Grades five and eight were just shy of meeting thataverage.

The district also failed to meet the state average ineighth-grade reading and second-grade math.

“We’re going to go back to the drawing board and do a better jobof teaching language arts,” Caudill said. “Beginning in the lowergrades we’ve put a lot of emphasis on reading and math and we havesomewhat neglected language arts. We’ll have to go back now andaddress that.”

However, in a majority of the MCT-tested areas, the districtout-performed the state. In math, grades four through eight greatlyexceeded the state average.

Success in the lower grades were somewhat offset by SATP scores,Caudill said. Scores indicated the district was significantly belowthe average in Algebra I, English II and the English II narrativeand informative writing assessments. U.S. History was only slightlyunder the state average.

“We are making changes in the curriculum this year to addressthose areas where we didn’t meet state averages,” Caudill said.”Whatever it takes, we’re going to address our weaknesses in orderto correct those deficiencies.”

Central office personnel, principals and teachers have hadseveral meetings to determine how to respond to the data. Onechange agreed upon at those meetings was a change in high schoolpolicy.

The extended four-week summer program has been discontinued,Caudill said. Although it probably did help students meet necessarygoals to prepare them for the next year, it did not help thestudents in time for the SATP testing.

Instead, he said, the district will offer an extended school dayto provide tutoring after school to students. A similar program wasin place last year, in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club ofLawrence County, but was more focused on general help withhomework. The new program will focus on state testing goals,although the Boys and Girls Club will continue to help studentswith homework and other needs at their facility.

“We’re going to counsel the parents on the change and stronglyencourage them to allow their child to participate in the afterschool program,” the superintendent said.

Class sizes at the high school have also been reduced, hesaid.