• 68°

County schools see good results in state testing

The Lincoln County School District posted some of the bestscores in the state in Mississippi Curriculum Test results releasedFriday, but officials say they are not yet ready to roll down theirsleeves and declare that work is done.

“We can be pleased with the win we had tonight, but if we becomecomplacent we will be left behind and lose the tournament,” saidSuperintendent Terry Brister. “Next year the bar goes up again andwe’ve got to be ready.”

West Lincoln Attendance Center made statewide lists for itssuccess in moving students along the Adequate Yearly Progresspathway, a development of the No Child Left Behind Act. The schoolhad 100 percent of its students displaying proficient or advancedskills in sixth grade reading and math and achieved a rank ofseventh in the state with 86.4 percent reaching those stages inseventh grade reading and 91.9 percent in math. West Lincoln’s highschool students also fared well, with biology scores placing fifthin the state.

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 used as part of aformula to tabulate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), a key elementin the No Child Left Behind Act.

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 must move their students from the minimal and basiccategories to the proficient or advanced levels by 2014 or facefederal sanctions.

Districtwide, Brister said he was pleased, but there were areasthat needed to show more improvement.

“We may have fallen a little short in some of the special needsareas and the Adequate Yearly Progress reports. But we had progressin every area, so I am elated about that,” Brister said. “We feellike academically we did real well and made great strides.”

All district mean scores were above the state average except foreighth grade reading and math. Additionally, only four areas showedmore than 10 percent of the students scoring in the minimalcategory for AYP – seventh and eighth grade reading and math.

“Seventh and eighth grade is a target for us every year, notonly in the district, but also in the state,” Brister said. “Itseems to be an area lacking every year. If we knew how to solve it,we would.”

Officials believe by increasing scores at the lower grades – andthereby increasing knowledge earlier – that the junior high scoreswill increase as the students advance through the system.

“We’re determined to win that battle,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent Letha Drane said districtadministrators will be examining the special needs program thisyear to see how they can improve scores there, but she noted thatthe scores were nothing to be overly concerned about.

“The percentage scoring proficient or above among our specialneeds students is also above the state average,” she said.

Approximately 370 district students are classified as needingspecial treatment for learning disabilities or handicaps, Dranesaid. In the past, those students had been tested at theirinstructional level. However, as districts move to comply moreclosely with the No Child Left Behind Act, they must be tested attheir grade level. This occurred in Lincoln County last year.

“Other than scoring well in the testing, this is an area I wantto improve in,” Brister said. “If I fall short in an area, itappears it is in accommodating the federal government in regards tospecial needs students. It’s not the teachers. It comes from thetop.”

It was policy to keep the special needs students separate fromthe mainstream for so long that Brister said he finds it hard toincorporate them. Additionally, the federal and state requirementsfor special needs students change rapidly, and he said the districtmust react more quickly to those moving goals.

“We’re having to adjust constantly to the requirements of NoChild Left Behind and the individual disability of the student,” hesaid. “It’s an area that’s really tough to keep up with.”