New federal state accreditation standards explained to school board

Published 1:27 pm Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Consultant Rucks Robinson gave a rundown on the new standards for accreditation, both federal and state, to the school board for the Picayune Municipal Separate School District at its meeting Monday night.

Robinson told the board that both sets of standards are growing tougher, but that steps the school board has taken in recent years will help the district to meet the rising standards. He especially praised the district’s staff for its work with students to help them improve and also praised the board for its expenditures for programs such as Fast ForWord that has helped with student achievement, especially in reading.

“Your academic future is what we’re talking about,” Robinson said.

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He said that programs such as Fast ForWord helps the district level reading and language comprehension and use between the socio-economic levels. Children from lower socio-economic homes often are at a language disadvantage when starting school and while the district has no control over what takes place in the home, it has “complete control over what happens in school,” which makes such programs so important.

He also cited another program the district has purchased, Reading Assistant, as helping and reinforcing what takes place in Fast ForWord. He noted that district students have advanced in reading level by an average of one year and three months because of the programs.

“When we improve in reading, we also improve in math,” Robinson assured the board in explaining how literacy helps students in every aspect of the education..

The new standards require that students in the district advance on the achievement tests they take each year to measure their progress. Failure for students to advance by particular percentages could result in consequences for the district, while exceeding the required standards will result in higher accreditation levels, he said.

As an example of how standards will be increasing, he said that to meet federal requirements, districts will have to go from 37 percent of students achieving what they should within a school year in 2008 to 100 percent of students meeting that goal by 2014.

The key to meeting or exceeding the standards requires identifying the level of achievement by each student and determining what the students need to meet or exceed standards. Robinson said concentrating efforts especially at the upper and lower levels of the various groupings of students will help the district and individual schools to meet the goals set for both federal and state standards.

He warned that making some of the improvements that will be required may cost still more money and said he understands how difficult that can be with state funding being in flux from year to year.

“To do all this requires money,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that reducing the student/teacher ratio may be key to achieving some of the required and desired progress in student achievement, and he understands that costs money.

He also urged the district to continue its “depth of knowledge” training for teachers and suggested getting teachers together in the summer to plan for how each grade can reinforce and teach standards that will be needed, even in levels above where students are when they are at a particular grade level.

“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” he warned.

In other business, the board:

•Elected Edward Stubbs board chairman, Dunae Wheat as vice-chairman, Tony Smith as secretary and Patti Stewart as assistant secretary.

• Recognized Sherri Lawley for her efforts as Show Choir director, and Pam Fluitt and three students — Will Smith, Talitha Odom and Michael Odom for their achievements in the Regional Reading Fair.

• Was thanked by Community Band director Johnny Baker for the board’s support of the community band.

• Approved the calendar for the 2009-2010 school year.