Houlka trustees pushing grades

Houlka School building copyHOULKA – Chickasaw County School Board trustees took a long hard look at student test scores and have set goals to bring them up.

Houlka Attendance Center was ranked a “D” in the 2013 statewide accountability rankings and this grade prompted staff and trustees to immediately begin strategic planning to bring that score up.

“We scored a 513 in total points and need to hit 540 to obtain a ‘C’” said Chickasaw County Superintendent Dr. Betsy Collums. “While we did not rank in the lowest percentile in any of our core subjects we do have areas that need improvement.”

The state’s new accountability rankings seek to improve student’s grades and this growth has been a hurdle for smaller districts around the state where just a small number of students failing a class can have a larger impact on test scores.

“The old system saw teachers focus on pushing the upper end students to do better,” Collums explained. “The new scoring criteria now requires the bottom to change or move up.”

Chickasaw County schools scored in the middle percentile in both math and U.S. History. They fell into the “D” range in both reading and science.

“The new reading requirement that will require all students at the third grade to read at a third grade level will require us to focus more on that age group,” said Collums. “That effort will help our scores down the road, but we probably won’t see immediate improvements in the higher grades.”

Collums said the district will see an additional focus at the fourth through eighth grade levels.

“I do want to point out we did better in math than reading and we have already started programs that will improve those reading scores,” said Collums. “We conducted our first practice test at the first of the year to see where we are. Those tests will show what skills students have mastered and what skills we need to work on before state testing starts.”

Collums said teachers have identified students who scored in the bottom 25-percent and are working closely with them. She said this was in addition to regular instruction for all students

“It’s a balancing act,” said Trustee Michelle Collums. “With our size district you can have one student fall out of the advanced or top percentile and that can really affect our scores.”

Superintendent Collums said attendance continues to a point of concern for the district and making sure kids go to school is also a parent’s responsibility. She said administrators and principals are watching absenteeism at all grade levels

Trustee Jamie Earp asked if the district was still monitoring teachers with multiple absences.
“Kids can’t learn if they aren’t in school and kids can’t learn if the regular teacher is not here,” said Earp. “We saw that problem a couple of years ago and addressed it and we need to make sure it doesn’t become a problem again.”

Collums said principals were monitoring teacher attendance numbers, too.

Collums said principals have also been charged with watching the district’s drop-out rate. That number negatively influenced Chickasaw County test scores last year.

Collums also pointed out Chickasaw County Schools will implement federal Common Core curriculum next year and that will prompt additional changes in the state accountability system.

In other business:

• Trustees approved a $1,000 donation from Wade Burt for the Wildcat football team.

• Trustees approved Tasha Mask to work in the 21st Century Community Learning Center After School Program.

• Trustees approved two bad weather make-up days. Students will attend class on April 21 and May 27.

• Trustees voted to advertise for bank deposit bids for school funds.

• The board approved the district’s special education project application.

• The district approved travel, fundraising activities, minutes and the monthly docket of claims and bills.


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