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County students strongest at history

Students in the Lincoln County School District experienced upsand downs on last spring’s state tests, but the county kids werestill able to beat all but one state average on the high schoolexamination and run all over averages on the elementary and middleschool test.

As a district, Lincoln County’s high school students reachedhighest on the U.S. History portion of the Subject Area TestingProgram, issued to all high school students and required forgraduation. They recorded a passing rate of 96.2 percent on thehistory exam, beating the state average of 93 percent passing by3.2 percent. Though the percent passing U.S. History fell from lastyear’s total of 97.1 percent passing, the subject remains thedistrict’s strongest for the third consecutive year.

“It just falls together,” said Superintendent Terry Brister.”It’s not any voodoo on the teachers’ part, not any voodoo on thekids’ part.”

The district’s second-best subject was Biology I, where 89.8percent of students recorded passing grades, enough to beat thestate average of 86.2 percent passing by 3.6 percentage points. Thescience subject also saw the district’s greatest improvement, withthe percent of students passing rising over last year’s total of 85percent by 4.8 percentage points.

Lincoln County students also bested the state average in EnglishII – the most difficult portion of the exam statewide – thoughscores were still low. A total of 69.2 percent of students passedthe English II exam, enough to beat the state average of 68 percentpassing by 1.2 percent. However, scores on the English exam fell by2.1 percentage points from last year’s tally of 71.3 percentpassing.

The weakest subject in the district this year was Algebra I, theonly subject where county students failed to beat the stateaverage. Only 66.1 percent of students passed the mathematicsportion of the exam, falling far below the state average of 79.6percent passing by 13.5 percentage points. Even so, studentsimproved from last year’s score of 62.2 percent passing by 3.9percentage points.

“Even though we didn’t meet what we wanted to meet, we improved,and that’s what we liked the most,” Brister said. “As long as we’reimproving, I don’t feel like we’re sitting still. Are improvingfast enough? No, but we are improving.”

Once again, the district’s highest-performing school was WestLincoln Attendance Center, which surpassed state averages in threeof four subjects, crushing two, and missing the fourth by one-tenthof a point.

West Lincoln’s students’ lowest grade was nonetheless their mostimpressive, as 77.8 percent of students passed the difficultEnglish II exam, beating the state average by 9.8 percentagepoints. They were also impressive in Algebra I, scoring 92.9percent passing, enough to beat the state average by 13.3percentage points.

On the Biology I exam, 95.1 percent of West Lincoln’s kidspassed, beating the state average by 8.9 percentage points. U.S.History was the only subject were students failed to outpace therest of Mississippi, scoring 92.9 percent passing and falling shortof the state average by 0.1 percentage points.

“Some people say practice makes perfect, but we kind of added onto that by saying, ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfectpractice makes perfect,'” said West Lincoln principal Jason Case.”If you practice those skills every day, when the kids get to thestate tests, it seems like normal, everyday procedure in theclassroom.”

Lincoln County’s lowest grades were turned in by Bogue ChittoAttendance Center. The southern-most county school produced thedistrict’s southern-most grades in Algebra I, where only 39.6percent of students passed, falling short of the state passingaverage by a massive 40 percentage points. The school’s score wasdown 5.9 percentage points from last year’s score of 45.5 percentpassing.

But Bogue Chitto may also have shown the district’s bestimprovement, bringing its Biology I scores up to 91.7 percentpassing, a soaring increase of 21.2 percentage points over lastyear’s total of 70.5 percent passing.

“We’re going to analyze the grades and see what we need to do toimprove them,” Brister said. “Then we’ll get our teachers zeroed inon where we need to go. We’ve got to do better in math, and we’regoing to.”

The ups and downs Lincoln County’s teenage students recorded onthe high school tests were not as prevalent among its youngerstudents. About 70 percent of elementary and middle school studentstaking the Mississippi Curriculum Test, Second Edition – issued togrades three through eight – beat state averages in scoringproficient and advanced marks.

“I believe what you get in the future is what you prepare fornow,” Brister said. “What we’re focusing on now is what we’re goingto get in the future.”

The highest-scoring group district-wide were the fourth-graders.On the language arts portion of the exam, 69.2 percent of the 9-and 10-year-olds scored proficient and advanced, broken down to53.6 percent proficient and 15.6 percent advanced. The same groupalso tied their third-grade counterparts for highest-scoring on themathematics portion of the exam, recording 67 percent proficientand advanced. The fourth-grade mathematics breakdown was 53 percentproficient and 14 percent advanced.

The lowest score record on the MCT2 was turned in by thedistrict’s eighth-graders, with only a combined 41 percent scoringproficient and advanced in language arts. The eighth-graders scoreda district-low 38.1 percent proficiency and a second-lowest 2.9percent advanced.