Lee County still ranked Successful

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Lee County School District maintained its Successful ranking and saw several of its schools improve their marks.
Successful is the third highest of seven levels in the state’s accountability model, which uses student test scores, student growth on those tests and graduation and completion rates to rank schools and districts.
Eight of the district’s 11 schools improved their rankings, including two schools that jumped by two levels.
Plantersville Middle rose from At Risk of Failing to Successful. Guntown Middle improved from Academic Watch to High Performing.
Only schools with grades four and higher receive rankings. Students do not take state tests until third grade, and two years of student test data are needed for the state to determine student growth.
The district also had four schools ranked as High Performing, the second highest category in the rankings. Those schools are Guntown, Mooreville Elementary, Mooreville Middle and Saltillo High.
“As far back as I can remember, I think this is the best Lee County has ever performed,” Superintendent Mike Scott said.
The district raised its Quality of Distribution Index by 12 points from 146 to 158.
The QDI, which ranges from zero to 300, is calculated by a formula that measures how students performed on state tests. Last year, the district also improved its QDI by 12 points from its predicted QDI in 2008. No official QDI was given in 2008, the first year the new state test was given.
“As a district, we’re pretty pleased across the board,” said Casey Dye, Lee County director of Student Assessment and Data Analysis. “We saw a lot of progress to get to where we want to be with all of our schools.”
Scott said the district’s goal is to continue to raise its QDI by another 12 to 14 points next year.
“Our QDI may not be as high as some other districts, but this shows that we’re headed in the right direction,” Scott said.
The only district school that saw its rating fall was Verona Elementary, which went from Academic Watch to At Risk of Failing. The school’s QDI fell from 123 to 105.
Scott and Lee County Chief Academic Officer Kathy Mask, who oversees the district’s middle schools, said the school overemphasized programs instead of curriculum. They said changes have already been made at the school, including using standard district assessments to determine students’ strengths and weaknesses.
Last year, the school relied on the assessments produced by different learning programs, but those assessments didn’t necessarily match the state tests.
“There is nothing wrong with the teachers at Verona,” Scott said. “They are good, hard-working, dedicated teachers. We’re not going to focus as heavily on programs.”
In addition to Guntown and Plantersville, other district schools that showed improvement included Mooreville Elementary, Mooreville Middle, Saltillo Elementary, Saltillo High, Shannon Elementary and Shannon Middle. Mooreville High and Shannon High maintained a ranking of Successful.
“I can’t say enough about Plantersville,” Mask said. “It hasn’t happened overnight for them. It has taken three years of hard work and dedication each year to come up a little bit.”
Scott, Mask and Dye credited the district’s improvement to studying student data, providing extra help for struggling students and having teachers work together as grade-level teams and subject-area teams. The district had several 60-percent days that allowed faculty members from different schools to work together in the afternoon.
Together, the teachers developed curriculum, wrote assessments and discussed successful instructional strategies.
The district also had great success in meeting the state’s growth targets. That target uses a formula to measure how much each individual student is expected to learn in a year.
Results for individuals are tallied to determine whether districts or schools showed growth. Essentially, it is looking at whether students are doing a year’s worth of learning in a given year.
The district made its growth target, as did nine of its 11 schools.
“Teachers and teacher assistants in the district have done a lot with interventions,” Scott said. “The focus now has to be on raising rigor for all students.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Read more including rankings of Northeast Mississippi schools in today’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.