Local school districts receive most recent grade

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Mississippi State Board of Education recently released the accountability results and district performance grades for the 2014-2015 school year.
Of the three school districts in Pearl River County, two received official “B” grades and one received a “C.”
However, the state was in its final year of a waiver that allowed schools to retain the letter grade they received the previous year, if the year’s grade was lower because of assessment results.
The accountability system evaluates schools based on their performance on state testing and graduation rates, states the release.
The full report shows that the Picayune School District, under Superintendent Dean Shaw, received an official grade of “C,” both with and without the waiver. The report also shows the district received the same rating in the 2013-2014 school year.
The Picayune School District’s graduation rate was 81.3 percent, according to an updated report from MDE.
The Pearl River County School District, under Superintendent Alan Lumpkin, received an official grade of “B,” but would have received a “C” without the waiver. Last year the district also received a “B” rating, according to the report.
The waiver was implemented to account for testing and guideline changes that occurred over the past four years, said Lumpkin.
Lumpkin said he hopes to see some improvement in test scores as a result of the stability from the new state-implemented QUESTSTAR program implemented in 2015.
“This is the first time in four years we’re going to have the same assessment,” said Lumpkin. “I’m really excited that we finally have a testing assessment for our students that is consistent.”
Lumpkin said he hopes to improve the district’s scores in the future by working to keep students actively engaged in school.
“First and foremost, the way you affect student achievement is directly in the classroom,” said Lumpkin.
The Pearl River County School District has focused on recruiting and training great teachers, said Lumpkin, who has implemented professional learning communities within individual schools.
The district’s graduation rate also rose to 84.6 percent, making it the highest in the county, according to the report. Lumpkin said his goal is to raise the graduation rate into the 90’s.
The Positive Behavior Interventions and Support program implemented in the district’s schools, licensed social workers and the promotion of extracurricular activities are very important to raising graduation rates, said Lumpkin.
“You have to make school exciting, you have to make kids want to be here,” said Lumpkin. “We’re very blessed here at PRC because our students enjoy going back to school.”
The Poplarville School District also received an official grade of “B,” under the direction of Superintendent Carl Merritt, states the report. It also would have received a grade of “C” without the waiver, and was given a “B” for the 2013-2014 school year.
Poplarville’s graduation rate was 81.5 percent, according to the report.
Merritt said he anticipated a drop in the score because of new testing procedures and policy changes.
“We will do our best to find, and look and do the research to get back to where we want to be,” said Merritt.
Merritt said he is looking to improve scores in reading, writing and math.
“We want to make sure that math is incorporated across the board,” said Merritt. “We’re going to make it an incentive to make math part of the whole day.”
For some time, the district has had a graduation coach, said Merritt, who helps track students toward graduation from the day they enter high school.
The district has also been working to implement attendance incentives to help parents realize the importance of ensuring children are in school on a regular basis.
“If they’re not in school, they’re missing quality work and quality instruction,” said Merritt.
The state is going to be implementing more stringent tests, said Merritt.
“It’s going to take schools across Mississippi a while to adjust to this. We are expecting more from our kids, which I agree with,” said Merritt. “I think a challenge is healthy, I think expecting more from our children and our teachers in our schools is good and I think our Mississippi children can do that.”

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About Julia Arenstam

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