High school students’ scores up

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Franklin County School District tallied up a splitperformance on state tests earlier this spring, with its highschool students performing above state averages and its elementaryand middle school students falling short in several categories.

Superintendent Dr. Grady Fleming said he was pleased with scoresturned in by his high school students on the Subject Area TestingProgram, which is necessary for graduation, and is taking steps toensure the younger grades step up performance on the MississippiCurriculum Test that will carry over as students progress in age.The MCT2 is designed to evaluate districts’ teaching methods.

“The students have done what we’ve asked of them, and we’refiguring out what the test is and we’re preparing to meet thosegoals,” he said.

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For the SATP, the goals are largely met, with Franklin Countyhigh schoolers exceeding state averages in three of four subjectstested and barely missing the fourth. The district’s mostimpressive score came on the English II portion of the exam, where84.1 percent of students scored passing grades, beating the stateaverage of 69 percent by 15.1 percent. English II is the state’sweakest category.

Franklin County’s SATP-takers also bested the state averages inAlgebra I and Biology I, scoring 78.8 and 93.5 percent passing,respectively. The Algebra I score was good enough to defeat thestate average of 72 percent passing by 6.8 percent, while theBiology I score took down the state average of 87.6 percent passingby 5.9 percent.

The only subject in which the district failed to meet the stateaverage was U.S. History, with local students’ score of 94.4percent passing falling short of the state average of 96.9 percentpassing by only 2.5 percent.

The district accompanied its high SATP scores with healthygrowth over 2008, with scores in three of four subjects improvingthis year. Just as English II was Franklin County’s widest marginfor defeating the state average, the same subject saw thedistrict’s scores increase by 25.6 percent over last year’s 58.5percent passing, a quarter increase.

Scores in Biology I increase by 6.8 percent from 2008, andAlgebra I scored improved by 4.5 percent. The district’s U.S.History average was the only one to come down from last year,falling by six-tenths of a percent from 95 percent passing.

Grady said the district’s high SATP scores were due to emphasisplaced on high school “feeder” classes, which are basically thelower courses of the same subject. He said greater emphasis hasbeen placed on classes like English I and Pre-Algebra to make surestudents moving up are well grounded and prepared for the moreadvanced classes in which state tests are issued.

“It takes more than just one teacher to prepare (students),” hesaid. “It’s a team effort, and that’s what we’re pushing.”

Grady also said the district has managed to keep class sizessmall and offers tutoring and remedial instruction in a wide rangeof subjects.

More attention is needed, Grady said, in Franklin County’syounger grades, where elementary and middle school studentsstruggled with the MCT2. Test-takers in grades three through eightmanaged to beat state proficiency and advanced score averages inonly eight of 24 scoring categories.

“There’s a breakdown somewhere, and we’ve got to find the linkthat’s cracked or broken,” Grady said. “Once we do that, I thinkthings will start coming into line.”

Low points in Franklin County’s MCT2 scores include 28.2 percentof sixth-graders recording minimal scores in mathematics, and adistrict-low 31 percent of seventh-graders scoring proficient marksin the same subject. Additionally, no sixth- or seventh-gradersscored advanced on the language arts portion of the exam.

However, 14.2 percent of seventh-graders taking the mathematicsportion of the exam scored advanced. The highs and lows have Gradyand his administrators scratching their heads.

“It’s confusing for us,” he said. “We’re taking it veryseriously, struggling to try to figure out what the answer is. I’vegot my curriculum coordinator and test coordinator and principalsall working, and they’re gaining a lot of knowledge about whatwe’ve done and where we need to go.”