Language arts scores trouble schools chief

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 25, 2005

Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series of articlesexamining in detail by school district the Mississippi CurriculumTest and Subject Area Test Program results announcedrecently.

Language arts proved to be especially troubling, while mathscores were notably satisfying in Mississippi Curriculum Testresults for the Franklin County School District released last weekby the state Department of Education, school officials say.

“We were pleased in some areas, and we’re scratching our headsin others,” said Superintendent Lona Thomas.

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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 federal No Child Left Behind Act. Those results will bereleased in September.

Under No Child Left Behind, all students are evaluated andplaced in one of four major categories that determine theirproficiency – minimal, basic, proficient and advanced. Alldistricts must move their students from the minimal and basiccategories to the proficient or advanced levels by 2014 or facefederal sanctions.

Thomas said Franklin County did exceptionally well in math atall levels, exceeding the state average in six of seven testedgrades and missing the average in fourth grade by less than fourpoints.

However, district officials are concerned by the scores inlanguage arts at all grades. Only second grade exceeded the stateaverage, and the difference was marginal.

In reading, second through fifth grades were above the stateaverage, while the higher grades were below it.

In nearly all areas of the testing though, she said, thedistrict had improved its scores and was “closing the gap” on thoseaverages, which continue to increase each year statewide creating a”moving target.”

“I’m surprised it’s being closed as quickly as it is, honestly,”Thomas said.

She said she believes the success of the math program can beattributed to changes the district made two years ago that providedcontinuity in the way math was taught not only at each grade levelbut also at each school.

This year, changes will be made in the reading and language artscurriculum at the junior high level to address shortcomings there,she said.

“Overall, even in the areas we are below the state average we’renot way below. We are in range of the state,” Thomas said.

The superintendent, school administrators and teachers aremeeting to examine the data and determine what curriculum changesshould be made to further improve the scores.