OUR OPINION: Reaching for the top defines school results

It’s still unofficial, and it’s a projection, but it’s on the record after the man at the top announced it at a districtwide staff meeting on Monday: Tupelo Public School District will show significant improvement when school test scores and rankings are released officially in the fall.

Superintendent Gearl Loden told faculty and staff members Monday that the city’s first “A” school is likely – Lawndale Elementary – and that Tupelo High School will show a 36-point jump in the standard known as the Quality of Distribution

Index, measuring progress and knowledge in every school.

THS, the state’s largest high school in 2012-2013, could bump to an “A” if the final factor to be calculated, the graduation rate, is high enough.

Districtwide, the gain is projected to be 17 points, placing the district in the upper range of the “B” rating. The system was rated “B” in 2012-2013 by three points.

Overall, it is projected the district will have one “A” school, six “B” schools, and one “C” school.

The projected improvement is impressive as a single-year achievement; it is more impressive considering Tupelo’s standing two years ago as a system on “Academic Watch,” a shaky and unacceptable status.

The district rose during the 2011-2012 to a “B” status, considered high-performing as a system but with two “C” schools and no “A” school.

Testing taken during the 2012-2013 academic year produced what Loden, who has completed his first full year as superintendent, describes as “accelerated growth.” The goal is sustained improvement over a period of years so that expectations are raised and the whole education support community is energized to expect noting less than sustained strength in the top categories of official rankings measured by reliable tests.

Tupelo, which built and dedicated its first separate high school building in the 1913-1914 academic year, is a vastly more complex community to educate than in 1914, with the demands for useful knowledge changing faster than anyone could have imagined a century ago.

Tupelo public schools have been and will remain a magnet holding the community together, and the magnet will strengthen as the schools regain the strength and ability to perform at the level that has made them the community’s most valuable asset.