Lee keeps its growth steady; district ranked Successful

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Since Mississippi changed its state test four years ago, the Lee County school district has improved its results on those tests each year.
While those gains have not bumped the school district up any levels in the state’s ranking system, Superintendent Mike Scott said that the growth has been significant.
“We are very pleased,” Scott said. “Our teachers have developed a plan, and they are following that plan.”
The school district was ranked Successful, according to unofficial school rankings released by the Mississippi Department of Education on Tuesday. Those results are expected to become official on Friday when the State Board of Education votes on them.
Successful is the third highest of the seven levels in Mississippi’s accountability model. It is the only ranking Lee County has had during the three years the state has used the current system to rank its schools.
But during that time, the district has seen a large rise in its Quality of Distribution Index. The QDI, which is based upon student scores on state standardized tests, is one of two indicators used to determine a school’s ranking. The other is whether the school meets its growth target, which measures whether all students improve as much as expected.
Over the past four years, Lee County has improved its QDI by 23 points from 139 to 162. This year, the district improved by four points from last year.
“We are pleased,” said Casey Dye, Lee County’s director of federal programs. “There is always room for improvement and you always want to do better, but we are pleased overall.”
Lee County has also met its growth target in each of the three years that has been measured.
“I think our teachers really do a good job of identifying those kids that are borderline,” Scott said. “I think the interventions they put in place make a difference. They really move kids from one level to the next, and the purpose of all of this is moving students.”
The district has five schools ranked High Performing, the second highest level. Those schools are Saltillo Elementary, Guntown Middle, Saltillo High School, Mooreville Middle and Mooreville High School.
Last year, Lee County had four High Performing schools.
Meanwhile, Shannon High School saw its QDI grow by 27 points, while Verona Elementary’s rose by 16 points and Shannon Middle’s did so by 14 points. QDI is measured on a scale between 0 and 300.
Saltillo High dropped by 11 points, but still had the highest QDI in the district at 213.
Two district schools were ranked Successful and two were ranked Academic Watch, the fourth level. Verona and Planersville Middle were ranked Low Performing, the fifth of the seven tiers.
Scott said one key for the district’s success has been having teachers from all of its schools collaborate and plan together. Testing coordinator Debbie Jones said the district will utilize its teacher training sessions as it tries to continue its improvement.
“High Performing is our goal, but I like the way we have grown consistently,” Scott said. “It has not been a jump and a fall back. It has been consistent growth, and I think that means there is good instruction every day, every year in this district….When we reach High Performing, it will be with stability.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com