Lee County continues its growth, though at a slower pace

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Although the Lee County School District’s test scores did not repeat the dramatic growth of a year ago, those results did show many small improvements.
The Mississippi Department of Education released those scores today, the results of standardized state tests students took during the past school year. Third- to eighth-grade students took the Mississippi Curriculum Test in language and math, and high school students took tests in algebra I, biology, U.S. history and English II.
Scores from those tests will be used to determine district and school accountability rankings, which will be released in mid September. Scores on the biology test, which was new last year, were not released today.
Students are ranked, from lowest to highest, minimal, basic, proficient and advanced.
Lee County increased the percentage of its students scoring at least proficient on nine of the 15 tests students took this year, and maintained the same percentage on another.
Last year, Lee County showed improvements on 11 of those 16 tests. And while some of this year’s gains weren’t as dramatic as those of a year ago, Lee County Director of Federal Programs Casey Dye said that he was encouraged the district avoided the backslide that often follows large improvements.
“We are pleased,” said Dye, who served as the district’s director of student assessment last year. “We may not have made as much of a big jump as last year but the best jump is the kind you make incrementally each year.
“…It wasn’t as big as last year, but at least we are keeping that momentum moving forward.”
Best showing
The county’s greatest gains came in third- and eighth-grade math and third-, fourth- sixth- and eight-grade language arts.
The percentage of Lee County students scoring at least proficient in eighth-grade language rose 15.1 percentage points to 48.1 percent, and the percentage doing so in third-grade math rose by 11.7 percentage points to 69.8.
“I am proud of our staff district-wide, the way they implemented the initiatives we started three years ago,” Superintendent Mike Scott said. “The teachers in our district have done a tremendous job aligning our curriculum between what is taught and tested. The principals have done a really good job of making sure it was all monitored.”
Lee County’s declines were in fourth-, fifth- and seventh-grade math, fifth-grade language and algebra I. The largest decline was in fifth-grade math, which fell 5.8 percentage points to 62.1 percent. That figure is still much higher than the 45.8 percent the district scored in the test’s first year, 2007-08.
Each of the district’s schools had varying increases and declines on the different tests.
Verona Elementary, which was the only Lee County School to see significant declines last year, bounced back in a big way this year. The kindergarten to fourth grade school improved on all four of its tests, including double-digit gains on the two third-grade tests.
Shannon Middle School increased the percentage of students scoring at least proficient on eighth-grade language by 34.6 percentage points, from 18.8 to 53.4.
The biggest drop in the county was the English II test at Mooreville High School, where the number of students scoring at least proficient fell by 36.4 percentage points to 22.6.
Much of that decline was attributed to the fact that only a small number of Mooreville students took that test this year, Dye said. Thirty one kids took it this year, compared to 183 last year.
Students can take that test in their sophomore, junior or senior years. Scott said that many of the school’s more successful students took the test last year, while others were given more remediation and tested this year.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.

Full test scores in today’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.