5 schools in in county’s 3 school districts are High Performing in state’s academic ratings

Published 2:26 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Five schools, spread over Pearl River County’s three school districts, have been ranked High Performance, the second highest ranking in the State Dept. of Education’s academic accountability ratings just released.

The rankings in descending order are: Star, High Performance, Successful, Academic Watch, At Risk of Failing and Failing. The new program is in its third year. It is known as the “accountability plan.”

Those rankings show that five schools — Pearl River Central Upper Elementary, Picayune Junior High, Picayune’s Roseland Park Elementary and West Side Elementary and Poplarville Jr.-Sr. High — rank right near the top with the best schools in the state and the nation.

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Pearl River Central had the highest overall ranking, but Picayune pointed to what it termed the greatest improvement percentage.

Poplarville Jr.-Sr. High had the highest individual QDI (qualitative distribution index) in the county at 192, which was just below a Star performance rating.

Poplarville district Superintendent Carl Merritt expressed appreciation for the efforts of the students and staff at the high school for their hard work that the rankings indicated.

“We have responded to the challenge of the new rating system and results like these are what we like to see,” Merritt said. “All our schools are stepping up their efforts and are seeing improvements.”

“That’s what any superintendent want to see.”

In commenting on the ranking of the Upper Elementary School, with the lowest QDI of the three schools in the Poplarville district at 146, Merritt said that school was still a successful school, pointing out that there were many factors that affected a school’s rating.

The Upper Elementary joined two other schools at that ranking in the county.

Star is the highest and High Performance ranks right under that. Pass Christian, for instance, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, was awarded the Star ranking and is considered the best academically in Mississippi.

What had Picayune officials so elated over the scores, however, was that last year all six Picayune schools were on Academic Watch, and this year the schools overall QDI went up 13 percent, giving the school three High Performing, 1 Successful and only 2 schools  still on Academic Watch.

“We identified with testing where the students were weak and zeroed in on those areas,” said Vera Beech, a former Nicholson principal and now the administrator in charge of testing at Picayune.

“We also did not leave out the high performance students, too. We pushed them also with additional challenges,” she said. She added that administrators and teachers were elated over the gains and are motivated now to do even better next year.

The schools are ranked by their QDI, but other factors also enter into the ratings process.

For instance, Pass Christians’ highest school QDI rating was a 234 for the high school.

Poplarville Jr.-Sr. High was rated at 192, the highest QDI in Pearl River County, and the remainder of the high performing schools ranged from 168 to 183. However, the QDI is not all that is taken into consideration, although it is a big factor in rankings.

Pearl River Central had the highest overall ranking of any district in the county with the Upper Elementary ranking High Performance with a QDI of 183, Pearl River Central High Successful at 182 and Pearl River Central Jr. High at Successful at 164.

Picayune had three high performing schools, Picayune Jr. High at 168, Roseland Park Elementary at 171 and West Side Elementary at 170.

While those were the second highest rankings a school can score, in Picayune the high school and South Side Elementary ranked on “Academic Watch.” That is about mid-level in rankings, and while passing, is not what educators want. It is what could be compared to a C.

If a school were ranked at risk of failing or failing, the Mississippi Department of Education might be looking at the possibility of placing tighter controls on the school. All county schools are well-above that level.

The full rankings of the schools are:

Pearl River Central: Pearl River Central Upper Elementary, High Performing, QDI 183; Pearl River Central High School, Successful, 182; and Pearl River Central Jr. High, Successful 164.

Poplarville: Middle School, Successful, 160; Poplarville Jr.-Sr. High, High Performing, 192 (The highest QDI in the county); and Poplarville Upper Elementary, Academic Watch, 146.

Picayune: Nicholson Elementary, Successful 147; Picayune Jr. High, High Performing, 168; Picayune Memorial High School, Academic Watch, 161; Roseland Park Elementary, High Performing, 171; South Side Elementary, Academic Watch, 137; and West Side Elementary, High Performing, 170.

The information showed the graduation rates for the schools, also. They were: Poplarville first with a 76.7 graduation rate, Picayune with a 72 percent and Pearl River Central High with a 71.4 percent. That means a quarter of students that enter the counties three high schools leave without graduating.

Pearl River Central had the highest overall QDI scores in the county, and improved on percentages over last year. Supt. Dennis E. Penton said he attributed the position of the county school district and its improvement over last year to the hard work of administrators and teachers.

“We adjusted our curriculum and also instituted some check points that helped us identify our progress and it worked, with the help and guidance of administrators and our dedicated group of teachers here. Also, we had a lot of parental support and that always helps, too,” said Penton.