By NEMS Daily Journal
The Tupelo Public Schools achieved a High Performing/letter grade B ranking in state tests given during the 2011-2012 school year, joining 15 other Northeast Mississippi districts earning that grade in scores subject to state Board of Education confirmation today.
Tupelo’s ranking advances the district two places in the state’s ladder of scores ranging from Low Performing/F to Star Performing/A.
The seven-school, 7,000-plus-students Tupelo system had been rated Academic Watch.
Tupelo High School scored Successful/C, the same as last year but below aspirations and certainly community expectations.
The 16 High Performing/B districts in Northeast Mississippi – 50 percent of the 32 districts – exceeds the statewide B share, which is 33 percent.
None of the Northeast Mississippi Districts achieved Star Performance/A ranking but 12 individual schools made the coveted A, including Moorevile and Saltillo high schools in the Lee County Public Schools, which overall scored successful but with one F school, Verona.
Tupelo’s schools, with the exception of THS’s and Milam Elementary School’s Successful/C rank, all scored High Performing/B.
Tupelo’s district improvement was achieved on the watch of interim superintendent David Meadows, who came out of retirement to lead the district after the abrupt resignation and departure of ex-superintendent Randy Shaver.
Community discontent was widespread and confidence in the public schools was at a low point. Meadows didn’t promise miracles, but he said improvement was possible.
Teachers, administrators and students delivered, with many parents rallying to the cause despite unrelated and prolonged personnel distractions.
Achieving the double-rung advancement doesn’t cross any finish lines, and one change in the ranking system – the temporary elimination of graduation rates as a factor – helped Tupelo, whose droput rate is still unacceptably high. But the results demonstrate that deliberate focus can close gaps and produce progress, moving more students to the key measure of subject area proficiency.
Tupelo had not previously ranked higher than Academic Watch under the four-year-old system and it had not met academic growth targets.
The longer, larger challenge for Tupelo is sustained and even more intense effort in reaching toward Star Performance/A for the district and every school in it. Nothing guarantees the same or better results in 2013 – as several districts and individual schools in the region experienced from 2011.
The first major challenge is that in 2013, graduation rates return to the rankings formula. The state Board of Education voted 6-1 earlier to drop for one year the requirements that at least 80 percent of students must graduate for schools to earn the top Star/A rating, or that at least 75 percent graduate from schools for them to earn the second-highest High performing/B rank.