Area school rankings released

1STOCK _Education UPDATE AppleBooksDeskCHICKASAW COUNTY – Grades for all three Chickasaw County schools are not where local educators want them to be, but there have been improvements.

District scores for both Houston and Okolona school district moved up a letter grade this year with Houston getting a “C” and Okolona getting a “D” on state accountability rankings. Chickasaw County Schools saw their ranking drop from a “C” to a “D.”

The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) officially released letter grades for schools and districts on Friday. The public report card or accountability index for districts is apparently having the desired effect statewide with more districts earning an “A” and fewer districts earning an “F” for the third consecutive year.

The accountability model measures student performance on subject curricula and assessments. Schools and districts received performance classification letter grades of “A,” “B,” “C,” “D” and “F.”

Chickasaw County Superintendent Dr. Betsy Collums said she was disappointed with their grade and the district has already developed a plan to improve scores next year.

“We will be tested on MCT2 again next year and will hold off bringing in curricula linked to Common Core,” said Collums. “I would like to point out we missed growth by .03 of a point. That means some student missed just two or three questions that affected our grade.”

Collums said the district takes state district and school rankings seriously, but she felt Chickasaw County’s scores did not reflect the quality of education provided in Houlka.

Districts scoring 153 earned a “C” this year.

Houston Superintendent Dr. Steve Coker said he was pleased with Houston’s rise from a “D” to a “C” and the rank of Satisfactory. Coker also pointed out if Houston has scored one more point on their QDI they would have gotten a “B.”

“The break was 170 and we scored 169,” said Coker. “We had some success and we had some failures and we will use these numbers to help us become a better school district.”

Okolona Superintendent Dexter Green said Okolona’s scores indicate the district is moving in the right direction.

“It is still very important that we move this district to a ‘C,’” said Green. “But moving up to a “D” is verification to our school board and to the community that we are moving in the right direction.”

Had Okolona maintained it’s “F” ranking it could have faced being taken over by the state a second time. Under new state legislation, districts that re-enter state conservatorship can be consolidated with surrounding school districts.

Under-performing districts that don’t obtain a “C” are also open to the creation of a charter school in that district.

Green said Okolona’s improvement was due to the “C” ranking of the high school – up from an “F” last year. The high school also met growth goals set by the state.

Green said there is still work to be done with the elementary school’s “F” ranking.

“We have already made personnel changes at that level and have implemented programs with the goal of moving that grade higher,” said Green. “We must improve that grade. Our school board knows it, our teachers know it and our community knows it.”

Coker pointed out Houston Upper Elementary School jumped two letter grades from a “D” to a “B.”

“That’s a huge jump and I think much of that has to do with a new principal that has brought a new attitude to that school,” said Coker. “Teachers have bought into that change and the community has done a lot of work at that school, too.”

Coker said the district had hoped Middle School scores would improve and there will be an added focus on those students.

“As everyone knows, middle school students are hard to predict because of all that is going on socially and physically at that grade level,” said Coker. “I do want to point out that a “C” is a Satisfactory score with the state. We do want to do better.”

Houston’s main disappointment was seeing the High School fall from a “B” to a “C.”

“Every year they raise the bar with state testing and the tests get tougher,” said Coker. “You can’t be satisfied with where you are with your grade or ranking because the scores move up.”

Coker said the High School’s language scores hurt their grade. He said most districts across the state saw language scores hurt their ranking.

Houlka, Houston and Okolona all saw improvements in overall graduation scores. The state combines graduation rates over a 4- and 5-year period and a percentage increase in the 4-year rate is an improvement.

“Parents need to realize it is important for their child to be prepared and in school every day,” said Green. “That starts early by reading to them and making sure homework is done at the higher levels.

“I think part of our success is we stress that every student who graduates is also eligible to go to college at ICC (Itawamba Community College) for free,” said Green. “That is an incredible opportunity for many families in our community and we have to take advantage of it. It all starts with getting that high school diploma.”

Collums said 30 students at Chickasaw County schools took the ACT last year and most scored well.

“I think our students are motivated to go to college and that keeps them in school,” said Collums. “When parents show an interest in their child’s education, that helps so much.”

Coker said Houston’s graduation rate is not good, but is inching up.

“I think Larry Bell, our motivational speaker at the beginning of the year may have said it best when he said students need to be taught the phrase, ‘I have the knowledge, I can go to college,’” said Coker. “Our graduation rate has been a rock that has held us back and it’s good to see movement. That rock is starting to roll.”

A total of 18 school districts statewide earned an “A” this year. School districts in Northeast Mississippi that earned an “A” were:

· Amory School District

· Booneville School District

· Oxford School District

· Kosciusko School District

· Pontotoc City Schools

· Webster County School District

Calhoun County School District moved from a “C” to “B” this fall. There are seven schools in the Calhoun County district serving Bruce, Calhoun City and Vardaman.

Vardaman High School maintained its “C” rating and Vardaman Elementary once again earned a “B.”

East Webster High School had one of the highest QDI scores in the state at 214 and the elementary school earned a B. East Webster High School has a 90.3-percent 4-year graduation rate.

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