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Area schools see rankings success

Wesson Attendance Center and FranklinCounty schools saw improvement in school accountability ratingsreleased last week, while Lawrence County saw some of its schoolsslide in the rankings.

    Wesson Attendance Center moved from “Academic Watch” to”Successful.”

    “I’m real proud of our numbers, but in no way are we satisfied,”said the attendance center’s principal Ronald Greer. “We want tocontinue to improve.”

    The Mississippi Department of Education annually awards schoolranking labels.

    From highest to lowest, the rankings are Star, High Performing,Successful, Academic Watch, Low Performing, At Risk Of Failing andFailing. The rankings are based on testing scores, growth inscores, high school completion rates (if applicable) and otherdata.

    Greer pointed to the attendance center’s growth rates as a majorelement of the school’s improved status.

    “Meeting the growth is what got us to Successful,” he said.

    The school’s quality distribution index (QDI), based on testingdata, also saw improvement, rising from 152 to 161.

    The school was not far from an even higher ranking. Greer said thatwith the school’s growth rates, had it earned a QDI number of 166the school would have earned the High Performing label.

    Identifying exactly what the school’s students needed was key toits improvement, Greer said.

    “It was just truly honing in on where kids are and trying to workto improve them,” he said.

    Greer highlighted the high school scores as a standout at theattendance center, particularly U.S. History, which he said had aQDI of 199.

    “If we were to break our schools up and count the elementary,middle and high schools we would have had a High Performing highschool,” Greer said.

    The school also saw a high school graduation rate of 81.1percent.

    Greer said he intends to see the trend of growth continue.

    “It’s like a song that never ends,” Greer said. “You do well oneyear and you have to do better the next.”

    Wesson Attendance Center is in the Copiah County School District,which saw its district-wide rating move from At Risk of Failing toSuccessful.

    Franklin County also saw improvements district wide. Thedistrict-wide rating moved from Academic Watch to Successful.

    The 2010 accountability results ranked Franklin Middle School andFranklin Upper Elementary as At Risk of Failing. The 2011 resultsrated both schools as Successful.

    Franklin County High School was deemed Successful, a rating itretained from last year.

    The district’s superintendent Dr. Grady Fleming pointed to a numberof new initiatives as responsible for the district’simprovements.

    “We were more involved in tutoring and extra classes for those thatshowed deficit from last year,” Fleming said.

    Those programs should continue, Fleming said, but he hopes toidentify new means of improving the school.

    Fleming also praised the efforts of leaders at each of theschools.

    “I gave them a free hand to do what they felt like they needed todo,” Fleming said. “I’m excited and proud for our administratorsand teachers.”

    Lawrence County, however, saw less positive numbers.

    Topeka Tilton Attendance Center fell from High Performing toSuccessful. Monticello Elementary fell from Successful to AcademicWatch. Rod Paige Middle School remained at Academic Watch. NewHebron Attendance Center and Lawrence County High School bothremained at successful. The district remained at AcademicWatch.

    Monticello Elementary School Principal Cindy Williamson expresseddisappointment at her school’s results.

    “Was I pleased with the way we did? No,” she said. “We are strivingto do better. We are always striving for the next level.”

    Williamson pointed out that her school is comprised of kindergartenthrough the fourth grade and only two of those grades take statetests. There, she said the growth component of the ranking data canonly be shown in the fourth grade.

    “You could say our rankings are only dependent on grade four,”Williamson said. “So if you have a really strong group or a weakgroup, your ratings can really fluctuate.”

    Williamson said there are about 90 students in the fourth gradethis year, with about 460 students in the entire school.

    Williamson identified language arts as an area of improvement.

    “We are always lower in language arts that we in math,” she said.”That’s something we are focusing on.”

    Williamson said she is looking at tutoring services for the fourthgrade, looking to add new technology and working to keep classsizes down.

    Williamson also wants to get back to the basics.

    “All the new things can’t replace good classroom teaching,” shesaid.

    Other Lawrence County district and school officials wereunavailable for comment.