Accountability ratings mixed for local schools

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Lincoln County School District hasreceived an overall performance label of “Successful” from theMississippi Department of Education in its release of 2011, anincrease from its “Academic Watch” label from 2010.

    The department released its unofficial results Tuesday for thedistrict and for the individual schools of Enterprise, Loyd Star,Bogue Chitto and West Lincoln. Results are expected to becomeofficial Friday following a vote by the state Board ofEducation.

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    “I am very pleased with the progress each school has made,” saidSuperintendent Terry Brister.

    Brister, however, expressed complaints with the ranking system.

    “We have shown improvement each year from 2008 until now,” Bristersaid. “I don’t feel the end results are indicative of what we’rereally doing. We know what are teachers are doing. We are workinghard and progressing.”

    West Lincoln topped the individual school list with a “HighPerforming” label, same as it received in 2010.

    “For the last eight or nine years, we’ve been High Performing,”said Principal Jason Case. “Our expectations are that students aregoing to learn and master skills. If you have high expectations forstudents, you and they are going to reap the benefits – high testscores, student growth, adequate yearly progress, high ACTscores.”

    Case also nodded to his faculty and staff for the rating, thesecond-highest label the Department of Education has to give in itscurrent system. Schools and school districts are rated as eitherStar, High Performing, Successful, Academic Watch, Low Performing,At Risk Of Failing or Failing.

    “It takes the effort of each teacher in each classroom,” he said.”It’s a team effort. They (teachers) help each other out and askeach other questions. We go over strengths and weaknesses forstudents to help prepare them for the next grade.”

    Case, who is in his 11th year as principal of the school, said thekey to the continued success at West Lincoln is maximizinginstructional time and placing an undeterred focus on academicsfrom the time the school day starts to when the last bellrings.

    “My dad always told me I had a single track mind,” he said. “Andwhen the day starts, it’s like tunnel vision. From beginning to endit’s about instruction and learning.”

    Last year, Loyd Star received a label of “Academic Watch.” However,they improved from that for 2011 with a performance label of”Successful.” Loyd Star Principal Robin Case could not be reachedfor comment.

    Both Enterprise and Bogue Chitto saw increases in their QualityDistribution Indices (QDI), but received the same labels of”Academic Watch” as they did last year. The QDI number measures howwell students perform on state tests.

    Bogue Chitto Principal Stacy Adcock explained he was not satisfiedbut pleased with the progress the school has made.

    “I’m proud of the direction we’re headed,” he said. “We’ve workedhard. The teachers have worked hard, and the students have workedhard. Like many other schools, we’re not at the point we want to beat, but we’ve consistently improved over the past three years.

    “But we’re not satisfied, yet,” he continued. “I want our school tobe a top school. High performing school: that’s the goal.”

    Shannon Eubanks, principal at Enterprise, expressed the samesentiments about his school’s label. However, he said the labelingsystem is upsetting and difficult for people to understand aroundthe state.

    “It (the performance labels) is a frustration that I have because Ican show empirically how our scores have improved,” he said. “Youcan have a school score 133 (QDI) and be labeled ‘Successful,’ andyou can have a school score 162, like we did, and be put on’Academic Watch.’

    Eubanks said the first year the Department of Education introducedthe new measuring system, his school received a QDI of 155, thelowest Enterprise’s has been, but a performance label of”Successful.”

    “It’s a crazy thing,” he said. “Now it’s 162, which means morestudents have moved into the proficient and advanced scoringcategories on state tests, but we have ‘academic watch.'”

    Despite what he thinks is a flawed system, Eubanks stressed thatprogress has continually been made academically at Enterprise.

    “What you look at is your own students,” he said. “And they’rebetter than they ever have been. Are we where we want to be? Ofcourse not, but we’re doing better to focus on the areas we needto. Improvement is the game and we’ve not gone back.

    “We’re not making any excuses,” he continued. “We know what we are.We know where we’re strong and where we need to improve, and we’rejust going to buckle up and get there.”