TPSD Work Session 04.21.15

Tupelo School Board is about to have a work session at the Hancock Leadership Center before holding its regular meeting at noon. The work session is designed to give the board the chance to discuss several topics.

Agenda items include updates on the accountability model and curriculum, a report on graduation rate and process and information about several summer programs. If time allows, there also will be reports about handbook changes, safety updates, the Safe and Sound bond and the board’s summer retreat.

Four board members are present. Rob Hudson is not here.

Board president Ken Wheeler has called the work session to order.

Testing coordinator Lea Johnson will make a presentation about the state accountability model.

“The one thing we do know is that everything is changing, about testing and accomodations.”

Said the district put in the best foundation is could, this year.

New company that will do state tests is QueStar. Is from Minnesota and been doing tests for 40 years. Will be 3-8 and the four tests at the high school. Will only be end-of-year test. No more Performance-Based Assessment, like students had this year under PARCC.

It will be similar to the way it was before PARCC. There won’t be a national assessment, since it is a Mississippi only test.

Company has focused on literacy in the past, Johnson said.

Tight deadline, since it is April and first high school tests must be ready by December. At this point, plan is to take tests they’ve already built for PARCC and SmarterBalance for that first test. Then they will back to way they used to do it, in which Mississippi teachers will help build the tests. That will start for the 2016-17 school year.

Wheeler asks if the change is a good one.

Johnson: Mississippi’s old tests received high marks for the rigor on them, so they believe going back to them will be good.

Loden said the biggest concern is the last part. For the last 13 years they’ve been making own tests and Mississippi is still ranked last. They need a national comparison and won’t have one. He does like that Mississippi teachers will play a role in developing the test. But for economic development, you need to have a national comparison, so can say you are in top tier in the state, region, nation.

Board member Eddie Prather said that is a great concern. We don’t need to fool ourselves. We live in a global society, he said.

Johnson said they will still have ACT for juniors but that is a different test. Some parts of the nation prefer the SAT, but the southeast uses ACT.

Johnson said it is a 10-year contract. Loden said that is a concern because so much changes in 10 years. 10 years ago, the iPhone wasn’t even out yet.

Board member Joe Babb asks how the test connects to Common Core.

Johnson said the test will be based on Mississippi College and Career Readiness standards, which are very similar to the Common Core. They are much more rigorous than the old standards. For the first year, however, since they are using old tests, they will be very similar to PARCC end of year tests. MDE isn’t even talking to the company until May and districts not until June. They would be more information then.

Loden: Some of our concerns, the College and Career Readiness Standards are 99.9 percent the Common Core. Doesn’t know what will happen with a bill that requires a task force to review and possibly change the standards. Governor hasn’t signed that bill.

Also a confusing time because they have a new test and the accountability model is still in flux.

Said the company with the new tests had the highest bid of the three companies.

Johnson, one thing we know will happen is new graduation options. We are excited about this. Last year, high school students who failed test twice could use ACT score to graduate. Now there is a third option, take their average in the course and combine it with the test score. That will allow us to get more students through.

Johnson said counselors all over the state are jumping up and down because this will help a good student who just has test anxiety. Will help more students graduate across the state.

Wheeler notes it will help the state’s graduation rate.

Board member Eddie Prather notes the tension between wanting all kids to graduate but also not watering it down. You want every kid to be successful but you have to be careful about not designing a system that makes it too easy.

Johnson: I just think about several kids in the district who had taken the test seven times and they had passed the class. They are looking at if scores in the classroom are matching the test scores, and if not, why.

Johnson: There are a lot of people in the state who want to get every kid through and there are others who want to see rigor held.

On new accountability model, tests taking this year, they will get the results either in December of this year or January of 2016. A committee has made recommendations that will go before state board in May. So they will know more about how the tests will be used, about the time they finish tests. “I’m glad we’ll know,” Johnson said.

They added the ACT this year that every junior has to take. During the 2015-16 year, those scores will begin to affect accountability model. It will have a year lag. Then after that, they will begin to add the number of kids taking AP and dual credit courses. But everything still is in flux right now.

Assistant superintendent Eddie Peasant is on that committee. He said they are looking at ways to measure growth when comparing two different tests. He said there is a proven model they will use for that, has been used before for other tests – ACT and SAT, for example. They will use those statistics to determine how they have grown from one year to the next.

Another important issue is identifying the bottom students. It was 25 percent, but because of different number of enrollments, large schools, small schools, kids transferring, identifying the 25 percent lowest students is not possible. They changed that to the lowest, can’t be less than 25 percent but can possibly be more.

Loden: MDE’s philosophy has always been have the same test two years in a row and look at growth. But senate bill links the state and federal model and federal government wants you to have growth. If the state had autonomy, they probably would have two years for growth. It requires federal approval of state model.

Peasant: We would ideally say, we took this test, now we will transition to this new test and the following year, we will look at growth. But the federal government regardless will require us to look at growth and we need to find a way to show it.

There is talk about how confusing it is. Wheeler said the challenge is explaining it to the public.


Peasant, Tupelo Middle Principal Kristy Luse and Tupelo High Principal Jason Harris will provide an update on curriculum. Will talk about new course options and scheduling. Also related to district’s college and career transition plan.

Luse: A lot of what we want to talk about is, how do we innovate as we move into new school year. Hybrid online classes this year was new and has been trial and error, but there has been good response.

For eighth grade, Mississippi Studies and Geography will be a hybid-online class. EAch is a .5 carnegie unit.

ICT 2 will be tuaght to 8th gradrs and will offer a hybrid online class with one carnegie unit.

ICT2 will be taught to 7th gradrs as an elective option and will provide a hybrid-online option for a carnegie unit.

Hybrid, you can’t do something without being face-to-face with a teacher, especially at age 13 or 14. They will have interaction with a teacher during the week and even availability on the weekend.

The ICT teachers at the middle school will be the teachers for this.

Board member Sherry Davis asks when they meet face to face. Luse said some have met on weekends, during activity period, before school, after school. They have been super flexible, she said.

Davis asks how do they monitor they are keeping on track? Luse said they are meeting with them and they have completion dates and some of the assignments expire if they don’t get done by a certain time.

Davis: What happens if someone is not meeting those deadlines?

Luse said those students can be brought back into the classroom. Some students were juggling too many things or weren’t mature enough or parents said it was too much and those students were brought back into the classroom.

About 50-60 students interested in online courses for eighth grade. Seventh grade is smaller but she thinks that number will grow once the year starts. Eighth grade, they now have enough for 1.5 sections of history, but she thinks that also will grow when the year starts.

Students will be taking two periods of language arts, so these hybrid online courses allow more flexibility to take more electives.

Eight grade advanced math plus (algebra 1) will be offered during 1st period for 75 minutes. TWo sections are being offerend for 2015-16 school year for one Carnegie unit. Those students would be exempt from Classworks and use those 25 minutes for the class. She said it is more advanced than the previous algebra 1.

Eighth grade language arts classes will consist of two hour instrucitonal blocks. They’ve made a request to MDE to offer Creative Writing as part of eight grade advanced ELA classes. That would allow students to leave the middle school with 4.5 carnegie units just at Tupelo Middle School. That doesn’t include units they can earn through Tupelo High.

Loden: Tupelo was first school district in the state to offer online ICT. Now they will add Mississippi studies and have requested the creative writing credit.

Luse: We are on the forefront of being the first ones there.

Now Tupelo High Principal Jason Harris will speak. Probably the biggest change is Advanced Placement classes. District will pay for all exams and exam participation required to take the class. If student doesn’t take the test, they will not get the added weight to their GPA that comes with taking an AP class. There is a makeup test opportunity for students who are sick.

They are looking to grow their PSAT prep course. They have identified 9th grade students and will start second semester with a 9-weeks course, looking to continue to grow those students. This year with the class in the fall, they had a 17-point increase on test scores. They’ve also seen gains on ACT scores, even though class is geared toward PSAT.

Japanese will be added to course schedule this year. Students will receive high school credit or can pay and get a dual credit through Ole Miss. They’ve had a lot of interest in that, including some incoming freshmen.

AP Capstone program will start this fall. Holly Gray is going to receive training. Those 15-18 students will start in the fall. Next year, they are looking to incorporate more career development into their schedule.

They are having a great first year with ed options, the alternative plan for GED. That has been very successful.

Board member Joe Babb asks about the AP requirement to take the test, whether that will make some students shy away from the class.

Harris said he doesn’t think so. He thinks what often happens is seniors get into college, get into the honors college and decide they don’t need to take the test. They’ve had a push and more students are taking AP courses. There may be a few, but he doesn’t think there will be many. Often to get in honors colleges and schools these students want to get in, one component they look at is AP participation.

Harris said it is beneficial for those students because they get exposure to those tests, resemble college comprehensive tests.

Peasant said the reason students are interested in those courses won’t change. The test is a new requirement but he doesn’t think students will opt to take a regular course or to not take a course just because of the test. They will still want the preparation for college. It will just be part of changing the culture. He doesn’t think it was that kids didn’t want to take it, there just wasn’t a culture of taking the test at the end of the year.

Babb asks about aligning the course to the test. Harris said they have sent teachers to training. They are looking at data packets, looking at how well scores align to exam. Last year students took 99 tests and this year more than 300.

Harris: I look for us to be very successful on those.

Peasant said most teachers already use practice tests and they will increase that.

Harris: To be Capstone Scholar, AP Scholar, need to take so much AP courses and score at least a 3 on the test. The Capstone Scholar program begins this fall.

11:07 a.m.

Assistant superintendent Kim Britton and curriculum director Leigh Mobley will speak about elementary curriculum.

They are using Phonics First, an Orton-Gillingham based program to help with reading.

The May Institute will be this spring.

Mobley: This will be the third May Institute. The sign-up process will be different this year. They will use the Northeast Mississippi Education Consortium portal. They have 103 courses, 70 presenters and at least 50 of those are Tupelo teachers. there are technology courses, early childhood, literacy, math, arts, integrated arts, etc.

Will be three days after Memorial Day. Teachers will choose 12 hours.

Britton: The Phonics First program will not replace Reading Street. It will help with some strategies but they will still use Reading Street for the stories and to teach reading.

They will have another teacher curriculum writing workshop this summer.

Britton: They are looking at decreasing the number of district assessments that the district writes. Teachers will still give their own tests, but the district assessments will be reduced. We think our students have adjusted to the rigor and the teachers understand the standards more. That is the plan right now, but the data from this year’s test could change that.

They will work this summer to help strengthen teacher-assessments.

Loden notes the third-grade gate has increased the number of tests they have to give to K-3 students, to get them prepared for that.

11:18 p.m.

Peasant and Jason Harris will speak about changes to graduation rate and process.

Peasant: Early in the year when Tupelo’s graduation rate was assessed, they were at 79.4. After everything has been cleaned up, it has been 81.17. (That drew an applause in the room).

In addition, Ed Options academy. Had 15 students earn a diploma. Accredited diploma. Replaced GED program.

They have a GED program but it is much more rigorous than it used to be. Not many people are going through that. That is an issue everywhere, not just here.

Ed Options academy allows students to earn a high school diploma, rather than the GED program which often ends with a student dropping out, he said.

Harris said they are down to 12 students who need to pass a state test in order to graduate. They just took 17 students off that list. Of the 12 remaining, many are within a point or two away. There is one more round of testing.

Loden: The last few months have been about buildings and grounds. It is nice to be back talking about academics.

11:25 a.m.

They will discuss this summer’s board retreat. They are looking at two days. First day, board and superintendent would look at goals, scorecards, surveys, indicators. Work most of an afternoon.

On Friday they would work in the morning. Have more details on summer curriculum updates. Principals will go to PLC trainings in Tampa this summer and can give an update on that professional development. Can have a marketing update, technology update. Loden would like to showcase some of the best practices, show some things the district is doing with technology.

Joe Babb said he’d like to dive into the results of the school climate survey. Even like to hear comments with names redacted.

11:34 a.m.

Presentation now will be made on various summer programs.

Community liaison Mary Ann Plasencia is talking about Info Snap registration process. Parents will not have to fill out information again, except for emergency information, which will have to be updated.

Residency process will be the same. There was discussion about allowing them to upload proof of residency but they weren’t sure about the quality of the scan, so they will continue to use the old-fashion process of bringing hard copies. They will have centralized registration July 13-17 at Milam. Can submit all information at one place then. They will have a Spanish and a Japanese interpreter. Pam Traylor will schedule appointments for affidavit process.

In addition to centralized process, parents also can register at their school.

Assistant superintendent Diana Ezell said media centers will open during the summer on Thrusdays, beginning on June 4. Students will be able to check out books and work on classworks and AR for those who don’t have computers at home. June 4 to July 16, except week of July 4. Will be 12-6 p.m.

District again will offer Opportunity Camp in June. Will be 8-12 at Lawndale. Weeklong camps throughout the month. I think she said there are 28 sessions. There are scholarships for students who can not afford to go.

Britton will speak about summer packets that will be given to students at the end of the school year to get them ready for next year. They’ve added a packet to be given to ECEC students to get them ready for kindergarten.

When students bring sheet back they will get a reward, maybe a popcorn party, extra recess, Popsicle, etc. They also will have accelerated reader open this summer.

They will have eBooks available for students to access too.

Britton: It is our hope for our students to remain sharp. We want them to enjoy their summers but we also want them to retain information they learned during this school year.

They will not be penalized for not completing the packet but they will be rewarded for finishing it.

Board member Eddie Prather asks how they can get them to incoming kindergartners who are not at ECEC. Britton said they might be able to work with some daycares on that.

The work session has ended, I will start a separate post momentarily about the noon meeting.