COLUMN: Lee County Schools will build on last year's success

“All students will reach their full potential.” With this vision in mind, the 2008-2009 school year was one of much commitment and accomplishment for the Lee County School District’s principals, teachers and students.
Principals and teachers led initiatives that resulted in approximately 4,000 fewer students absences and 153 fewer out-of-school suspensions, a significant decline from the previous year. A strong emphasis was placed on increasing student achievement in reading, math and science across all grade levels, which should result in higher test scores.
With the strategic plan now in its second year, the school district expects to experience even more success than the previous year. Emphasis will also be placed on integrating technology and instruction. A blending of federal, state and local funds will be dedicated to increasing student achievement across all grade levels.
At the elementary, middle and high school levels, teacher advisory committees have developed pacing guides for math, language arts and science. These pacing guides will assist teachers in determining which objectives should be taught and assessed during each nine weeks. The teacher advisory committees will also create district-wide common assessments which will be given to students at the end of each nine weeks.
Assessing skills
In addition, the teacher advisory committees and principals have developed a kindergarten through second grade standards-based report card for assessing mastery of skills in reading and math. The standards-based report card is designed to inform parents about their child’s progress toward achieving mastery of state standards based on the Mississippi Curriculum Framework competencies and objectives.
K-2 students will be assessed according to what they should know and be able to do at the advanced, proficient, basic or minimal level. Students scoring proficient demonstrate mastery of grade level skills. Students scoring at the minimal level do not demonstrate mastery required for success at the next grade level.
The district will continue to universally screen all students in grades K-8 in reading and math in the fall, winter and spring. The data received from these screenings will better assist teachers in making decisions and meeting individual student needs.
In addition, academic coaches will be working closely with classroom teachers and teacher assistants on all of the district’s primary and elementary school campuses. These coaches will model classroom lessons, help supervise assistant teachers and assist Teacher Support Teams. While under the supervision of the classroom teachers and the academic coaches, teacher assistants will work with small groups of students on basic reading and math skills.
At the middle school level, the implementation of reading intervention programs and strategies has resulted in much growth in students’ reading levels. Out of 539 students enrolled in one program, 299 of them gained one or more years of reading growth to date. Of those students, 165 had two or more years of reading growth to date while 42 of those students achieved three to four years of reading growth. Other middle school reading programs, which involved extensive teacher and administrator training sessions, have placed emphasis on phonics instruction.
New AP classes
Several of the district’s high school teachers attended training this summer for the implementation of Advanced Placement (AP) classes. In addition to AP classes offered through Mississippi Virtual Public Schools, all Lee County high schools will offer some AP courses on site. The addition of these AP courses will enhance the district’s curriculum and provide opportunities for students to strengthen their academic skills.
For the past two years the Lee County School District’s GED program has been housed at the Family Resource Center of Northeast Mississippi. Many Lee County students have benefited greatly from this partnership. Not only are students given instruction which will assist them in passing the GED, but the students also benefit from the many counseling services that the center provides. In 2008-2009, 32 students were enrolled in the GED program. To date 65 percent of those students have earned their GED.
Dynamic leadership and quality instruction are taking place in our schools. Many of our students have excelled in academic, artistic and athletic competitions at both local and state levels. Many of our teachers have received National Board Certification and/or presented in state and regional educational and leadership conferences. In addition, the Lee County Schools have implemented innovative intervention programs focusing on literacy while providing differentiated instruction throughout our schools.
The 2009-2010 school year promises to be one of even greater achievement for Lee County students.
Mike Scott is superintendent of the Lee County School District.

Mike Scott/Superintendent of the Lee County School District