Tupelo maintains level, hopes for jump next year

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Although the Tupelo Public School District kept the same state ranking for the third consecutive year, its leader expects significant growth this year.
Tupelo was ranked Academic Watch, according to unofficial results released by the Mississippi Department of Education on Tuesday. That data is based on the student scores on last spring’s state tests and is expected to become official on Friday when the State Board of Education votes on it.
Academic Watch is the fourth highest of seven tiers in the system the state uses to rank its schools. Meadows said he believes the district can jump by two levels next year to earn a ranking of High Performing.
“With the continuous rating of Academic Watch, that says to me that while we have made gains thanks to the work of teachers and principals and others, we still have much work to do,” Meadows said.
Those efforts toward rising the district’s ranking began this summer when several teachers converged to rewrite the district’s curriculum, Meadows said.
Curriculum director Glenda Scott said that those teachers benefited by learning from each other during the process. They also wrote several district-wide tests that they will give to students throughout the year in order to see students’ weaknesses before the state tests. Teachers will be able to adjust their teaching based upon the results of those district assessments.
Scott said another focus of the summer workshop was making the district’s instruction more rigorous and more in depth. Educators discovered this summer that they were teaching many skills to a basic level, Scott said. The district will work to improve this during several training opportunities throughout the school year.
“The summer curriculum project created momentum this summer that will take the district to the next level,” said Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill. “I feel it, and I see it.”
Lawndale Elementary was the highest ranked Tupelo school, earning the distinction of High Performing, the second best level. Deputy Superintendent Diana Ezell said the school did a great job of using data to create a plan for each student.
Tupelo High and Tupelo Middle were each ranked Successful, the third highest ranking. Lawhon Elementary, Milam Elementary, Pierce Street Elementary and Rankin Elementary were ranked Academic Watch.
Only schools with third grade and above receive rankings because those are the only grades in which students take state tests.
The rankings are determined by both the Quality of Distribution Index and whether or not schools reached their growth target. The QDI is based upon student test scores and the growth target measures whether each student improved as much as expected from one year to another.
Tupelo improved its QDI by three points this year but did not meet its growth target. Had the district met that target, it would have been a Successful district. In fact, Tupelo had a higher QDI than many districts that were ranked Successful.
Lawndale was the only Tupelo school to meet its growth target.
Several district schools did improve their QDI. Tupelo High improved by 28 points, and Lawndale jumped by 17 points. Rankin fell by 11 points and Milam dropped by nine points.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com