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County schools lead the way on Department of Education tests

High school students in the Lincoln County School District had higher passing percentages than either the state’s averages or the Brookhaven School District’s high school students in every subject area tested, according to recent results from the Mississippi Curriculum Test, Second Edition (MCT2) and the Subject Area Testing Program (SATP2).

The Mississippi Department of Education requires high school students to take the SATP2 test, and third through eighth-graders to take the MCT2 test.

SAPT2 scores

Statewide, 85 percent of high school students passed the Algebra I section of the SATP2. Brookhaven city students had a passing rate of 78.4 percent in Algebra I, while 87 percent of Lincoln County students passed.

In English II, 65.6 percent of the Brookhaven students taking the test passed, while 77 percent in the county schools passed. Statewide results showed an average of 73 percent of students passed the English II section of the SAPT2.

In biology, the city schools showed 78.4 percent passed, 82.8 percent of county schools passed and 79 percent of all Mississippi students passed.

In U.S. history, 81 percent of all Mississippi students passed, 83.1 percent of the county students passed and 70.6 percent of Brookhaven students passed.

Lincoln County School District Superintendent Terry Brister said his administration and staff have worked diligently to align policies handed down from the Mississippi Department of Education with classroom strategies to keep students on a successful track.

“We identified ourselves – where we were,” Brister said, “what we needed to do to move forward and we created our strategies out of that.”

Brister said there is no doubt that his staff now has a better curriculum in the classroom and they are more organized around a central goal.

“Getting it”

However, he believes the most important factor in getting test scores up is that parents are finally “getting it.”

“It doesn’t matter how hard our administration works or how much the staff supports and understands the objectives,” Brister said, “without parents being involved in and part of the equation – helping with homework, making sure their children know what they’re supposed to know – we wouldn’t be seeing these increases.

“Reality has hit for many parents – they get it – they are learning what is required for their kid to be successful in school and in college,” Brister said.

Brookhaven School District Interim Superintendent Stephanie Henderson said that hard work has contributed to improvements in the city schools, too.

“Throughout this summer and into this school year, administrators in the Brookhaven School District have worked diligently to redesign and implement a solid instructional plan for the district,” Henderson said. “We have identified areas of weakness, and we are already addressing those.”

Statewide, students in each county showed intellectual gains in math, language arts, history and biology, according to a news release from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“More students scored proficient and advanced at every grade level on the MCT2 and on the SATP2,” the press release stated.

The MCT2 test, which is given to elementary school students, is a way that Mississippi educators get an early grasp on what will make for successful high school students.

Ranking levels

Depending on the percentage of correct answers on the test, students’ results are ranked as advanced, proficient, basic or minimal.

Curriculum and testing director for Lincoln County Schools Richelle Ratcliff said one of the MDE’s new policies is that students scoring minimal in the third and seventh grades are required to have intervention from a teacher response team.

“The goal is to intervene early,” Ratcliff said, “to close the gap. The earlier in a child’s learning that we intervene – the better.”

She said students scoring minimal go through academic counseling and tutoring. Their weaknesses and strengths are identified, and a strategy for the student to gain in competence is put in place.

MCT2 scores

This year, only 6.8 percent of the county’s seventh graders scored at the minimal level on the MCT2 and will take remedial courses in language arts, while 15.8 percent of the city’s seventh graders scored at the minimal level and will take the remedial courses. Statewide, 11.6 percent of seventh-graders scored minimal.

In seventh-grade math, the county and city schools are even in the percentages that scored minimal and will take remedial math courses – 11 percent. Both the city and county surpassed the statewide average, which was 14.9 percent scoring minimal in math.

In the county schools, 8.2 percent of third graders scored minimal in math while 9 percent the city’s third graders scored minimal and ran almost dead even with the state level of 8.9 percent.

Accountability grades

Ratcliff explained that showing growth as all the schools have done this year in student test scores from one year to the next is an important factor in the upcoming accountability grades schools will be receiving on Sept. 16.

Brister said he is confident about the upcoming accountability grades.

“I think we are going to do well,” he said. “I think we can always improve, but we’ve done well – preliminary results show that we did really well.”

Results from the two state tests, MCT2 and SATP2, are tools used by the education department to gain a clear vision of where Mississippi students stand in the current national landscape of education and where they may stand in the future industrial and technological landscape, too.

The recent improvements on the tests statewide follow several years of policies and strategies that come from the state level down to the classroom. School boards and school administrators have been putting their heads together after testing each year and deciding on the best curriculum needed in their classroom to prepare them for the tests.

The MDE designed these testing programs to inform educators and parents of how successful they can expect students to be as they move into the next grade level and to measure the success of high school graduates when entering a community college, a university, a technical training center or on-the-job training.

In fact, the MDE is confident enough in these measures that any high school student not passing the SATP2 will not be allowed to graduate, regardless of their letter grades in the teachers’ grade book.