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Area schools get mixed grades

Wesson Attendance Center earned the top rating in its district on school scores released this month while the Lawrence County and Franklin County districts received D and C grades respectively, the equivalent of their ratings last year.

     Wesson Attendance Center received a B from the Mississippi Department of Education, the equivalent of High Performing on the previous ranking models. That showed improvement from Wesson’s grade last year of Successful, or a C.

     The MDE grades are based on testing data from the 2011-12 school year.

     “I’m awfully proud of our students,” said Ronald Greer, who was principal at Wesson during the 2011-12 school year. “The administrative team we had in place at that time did a good job.”

     In each of the last three years, Wesson has increased its ratings, climbing from Academic Watch to High Performing. Wesson also has a graduation rate of nearly 85 percent.

     A major component of the ranking process is the Quality Distribution Index (QDI), which measures how students perform on state tests. Schools are also expected to see certain increases in the number of students scoring at each proficiency level.

     Greer, who’s now the head football coach at Wesson, said the attendance center has become much more data driven, using that data to identify specific areas where students need further instruction.

     “It was an overall effort of improving each child,” he said.

     Greer remains optimistic for continued improvement at the school.

     “I think they’re going to hit new highs in the years to come,” he said.

     Current attendance center principal Marilyn Phillips did not return calls seeking comment.

     In Lawrence County, the school district is holding steady with a D grade, or Academic Watch, the same as last year’s rating.

     “We’ve, unfortunately, somewhat stalled out, but we are planning to move forward,” said Superintendent Tammy Fairburn.

     The work is being done to push the district forward, though, Fairburn said.

     “We’ve all looked at our weaknesses, we’ve determined our needs, and we’ve all adjusted our program to improve,” she said.

     At the district level, Lawrence County received a D, or Academic Watch, while Lawrence County High School and New Hebron Attendance Center both received a C, or Successful, rating. Those schools earned the same ratings last year.

     Topeka Tilton improved its numbers from Successful to a B, or High Performing.

     Monticello Elementary School and Rod Paige Middle School both received D grades, a repeat from last year’s Academic Watch ratings for those schools.

     The district has a graduation of 63 percent.

     Fairburn said the district has implemented new universal screening to assess where the district’s students are. A screener was just completed and another will be done before winter break.

     “We anticipate a good bit of growth,” she said. “Hopefully any areas of weakness we will catch in the winter screener.”

     Math has been a strong area for the district, but more attention is needed on language arts and reading, Fairburn said.

     The Franklin County district received a district-wide grade of C, or Successful, a repeat from last year.

     Franklin County High School also pulled a Successful rating for a second year, but Franklin County Middle and Franklin Upper Elementary both fell to a D rating after being marked at the C level last year.

     Superintendent Ray Carlock said he’s confident that motivated teachers, motivated administrators and improved parental involvement can pull up Franklin’s ratings.

     The district did post improvement in its QDI scores and growth rates, a fact Carlock called encouraging, though it has a graduation rate of 59.5 percent.

     The district will also begin a greater emphasis on reading and writing across the curriculum, Carlock said.

     “I’m satisfied we’re headed in the right direction but we haven’t gotten there yet,” Carlock said.